Document 8180

VA/DoD CLINICAL PRACTICE GUIDELINE FOR
MANAGEMENT OF POST-TRAUMATIC STRESS
Department of Veterans Affairs
Department of Defense
Prepared by:
The Management of Post-Traumatic Stress Working Group
With support from:
The Office of Quality and Performance, VA, Washington, DC
&
Quality Management Division, United States Army MEDCOM
QUALIFYING STATEMENTS
The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and The Department of Defense (DoD) guidelines are based on
the best information available at the time of publication. They are designed to provide information and
assist in decision-making. They are not intended to define a standard of care and should not be construed as
one. Also, they should not be interpreted as prescribing an exclusive course of management.
Variations in practice will inevitably and appropriately occur when providers take into account the needs of
individual patients, available resources, and limitations that are unique to an institution or type of practice.
Every healthcare professional who is making use of these guidelines is responsible for evaluating the
appropriateness of applying them in any particular clinical situation.
Version 2.0 – 2010
Table of Contents
Page
INTRODUCTION
Guideline Update Working Group
4
11
ALGORITHMS AND ANNOTATIONS
CORE Module: Post-Traumatic Stress, Screening
15
Module A: Management of Acute Stress Reaction
and Prevention of PTSD
30
Module B: Management of Post-Traumatic Stress
Disorder (PTSD)
57
TREATMENT INTERVENTIONS
Module I: Treatment Interventions for
Post-Traumatic Stress
102
I1 – Early Interventions to Prevent PTSD
I2 – Treatment of PTSD
I3 – Management of Specific Symptoms
APPENDICES
Appendix A. Guideline Development Process
199
Appendix B. Acronym List
206
Appendix C. PTSD Screening Tools
209
Appendix D. Participant List
213
Appendix E. Bibliography
222
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Management of Post-Traumatic Stress
LIST OF TABLES
Table CORE - 1 Common Signs & Symptoms Following Exposure to Trauma ......................................................25
Table A - 1 Early Interventions after Exposure to Trauma (<4 days after exposure) ..........................................35
Table A - 2 Key Elements of Psychological First Aid (PFA) ....................................................................................37
Table A - 3 Diagnostic criteria for 308.3 Acute Stress Disorder (DSM-IV) ............................................................41
Table A - 4 Early Interventions after Exposure to Trauma (4 to 30 days after exposure) ....................................46
Table B - 1 Common Symptoms following Exposure to Trauma ..........................................................................59
Table B - 2 Components of Functional Assessment .............................................................................................70
Table B - 3 Diagnostic criteria for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (DSM-IV) .......................................................79
Table I - 1 Early Interventions after Exposure to Trauma (4 to 30 days after exposure) ...................................102
Table I - 2 Brief Psychotherapy Studies to Prevent the Development of PTSD ..................................................109
Table I - 3 Pharmacological Studies to Prevent the Development of PTSD ........................................................113
Table I - 4 Psychotherapy Interventions for Treatment of PTSD ........................................................................115
Table I - 5 Group Therapy in PTSD (Shea et al., 2009) ........................................................................................136
Table I - 6 Pharmacotherapy Interventions for Treatment of PTSD ...................................................................149
Table I - 7 Pharmacological Studies for Treatment of PTSD ...............................................................................156
Table I - 8 Symptom Response by Drug Class and Individual Drug (based on controlled trials) ........................160
Table I - 9 Drug Details .......................................................................................................................................161
Table I - 10 Adjunctive Problem-Focused Method/Services ..............................................................................168
Table I - 11 Pharmacological Studies - Prazosin for Sleep Disturbances ............................................................188
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INTRODUCTION
This update of the Clinical Practice Guideline for the Management of Post-Traumatic Stress was developed
under the auspices of the Veterans Health Administration (VHA) and the Department of Defense (DoD),
pursuant to directives from the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). VHA and DoD define clinical
practice guidelines as:
“Recommendations for the performance or exclusion of specific procedures or services derived
through a rigorous methodological approach that includes:
•
Determination of appropriate criteria, such as effectiveness, efficacy, population benefit, or
patient satisfaction and a literature review to determine the strength of the evidence in relation
to these criteria.”
This 2010 VA/DoD Post-Traumatic Stress guideline update builds on the 2004 VA/DoD Clinical Practice
Guideline for the Management of Post-Traumatic Stress. The 2004 Post-Traumatic Stress Guideline was
the first effort to bring evidence-based practice to clinicians providing care to trauma survivors and patients
with stress disorders in the VA and DoD. The development of the Guideline originated with recognition of
the need to diagnose and treat Post-Traumatic Stress among the military and veteran population. The
Guideline presented evidence-based recommendations that were thoroughly evaluated by practicing
clinicians and reviewed by clinical experts from the VHA and DoD.
Algorithms:
The VA/DoD also utilized an algorithmic approach for the 2004 Guideline for the Management PostTraumatic Stress. This guideline update has also been developed using an algorithmic approach to guide
the clinician in determining the care and the sequencing of the interventions on a patient-specific basis. The
clinical algorithm incorporates the information that is presented in the guideline in a format that maximally
facilitates clinical decision-making. The use of the algorithmic format was chosen because such a format
improves data collection, facilitates clinical decision-making, and changes in patterns of resource use.
However, this should not prevent providers from using their own clinical expertise in the care of an
individual patient. Guideline recommendations are intended to support clinical decision-making and should
never replace sound clinical judgment.
During the past 6 years, a number of well-designed randomized controlled trials of pharmacological and
psychotherapeutic interventions for post-traumatic stress have been conducted. Therefore, the goal of this
update is to integrate the results of this research and update the recommendations of the original guideline
to reflect the current knowledge of effective treatment intervention. As in the original guideline, this update
will explore the most important research areas of intervention to prevent the development of PTSD in
persons who have developed stress reaction symptoms after exposure to trauma.
Target Population:
This guideline applies to adult patients with post-traumatic stress who are treated in any VA or DoD
clinical setting.
Audiences:
The guideline is relevant to all healthcare professionals who are providing or directing treatment services to
patients with post-traumatic stress at any VA/DoD healthcare setting.
Post-Traumatic Stress:
Post-traumatic stress consists of a spectrum of traumatic stress disorders—hence, this Clinical Practice
Guideline for the Management of Post-Traumatic Stress. These disorders can be arranged along a temporal
axis, from Acute Stress Reaction, to Acute Stress Disorder, Acute PTSD, and Chronic PTSD. Each of these
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may be associated with serious mental and physical co-morbidities. Some survivors will experience only a
part of this spectrum, while others will progress through the entire range.
Acute stress reaction (ASR) is not a DSM IV diagnosis and is used in this guideline to refer to a range of
transient conditions that develop in response to a traumatic event. Onset of at least some signs and
symptoms may be simultaneous with the trauma itself or within minutes of the traumatic event and may
follow the trauma after an interval of hours or days. In most cases symptoms will disappear within days
(even hours). Combat and Operational Stress Reaction (COSR) reflects acute reactions to a high-stress
or combat-related event. ASR/COSR can present with a broad group of physical, mental, and emotional
symptoms and signs (e.g., depression, fatigue, anxiety, decreased concentration/memory, hyperarousal, and
others) that have not resolved within 4 days after the event, and after other disorders have been ruled out.
Acute stress disorder (ASD), a diagnosis defined by DSM IV, occurs when the individual has experienced
trauma(s) as described above, has symptoms lasting more than two days, but less than one month after
exposure to the trauma (may progress to PTSD if symptoms last more than one month), and exhibits reexperiencing, avoidance, increased arousal and at least three out of five dissociative symptoms.
Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a clinically significant condition with symptoms continuing
more than one month after exposure to a trauma that has caused significant distress or impairment in social,
occupational, or other important areas of functioning. Patients with PTSD may exhibit persistent reexperiencing of the traumatic event(s), persistent avoidance of stimuli associated with the trauma, numbing
of general responsiveness (not present before the trauma), and persistent symptoms of increased arousal
(not present before the trauma). PTSD can also have a delayed onset, which is described as a clinically
significant presentation of symptoms (causing significant distress or impairment in social, occupational, or
other important areas of functioning) at least 6 months after exposure to trauma.
PTSD is further sub-divided into Acute PTSD (symptoms lasting more than one month, but less than three
months after exposure to trauma) and Chronic PTSD (symptoms lasting more than three months after
exposure to trauma). PTSD can appear alone (presenting with common symptoms of PTSD) or more
commonly with other co-occurring conditions (persistent difficulties in interpersonal relations, mood,
chronic pain, sleep disturbances, somatization, and profound identity problems) or psychiatric disorders
(meeting DSM criteria for another disorder, such as substance abuse, depression, and anxiety disorder).
OEF/OIF veterans and service members who have sustained a concussion (mild-TBI) in the combat
environment are often at significantly greater risk of PTSD. Moreover, the diagnosis of either condition
may be complicated by the fact that PTSD is associated with generalized health symptoms, including
neurocognitive impairment and other symptoms in the persistent post-concussion syndrome definition.
Evidence-based practices to prevent and treat PTSD include screening, cognitive behavioral therapies, and
medications. There are many new strategies involving enhancement of cognitive fitness and psychological
resilience to reduce the detrimental impact of trauma. In terms of screening, evidence suggests that
identifying PTSD early and quickly referring people to treatment can shorten their suffering and lessen the
severity of their functional impairment. Several types of cognitive behavioral therapies, counseling, and
medications have been shown to be effective in treating PTSD.
The VA and DoD Healthcare systems have undergone significant changes in the past 10-15 years that are
transforming the two into an integrated system that provides high-quality care. In response to the increased
demands for services to treat OEF/OIF veterans with PTSD, these systems have invested resources in
expanding outreach activities, enhancing the availability and timeliness of specialized PTSD services.
Post-Traumatic Stress in VA population:
The numbers of veterans seeking and receiving treatment for post-traumatic stress in general and PTSD, in
particular, continue to increase. In a follow-up to a study by Dohrenwend et al. (2006), 9.1 percent of
Vietnam veterans sampled still suffered from symptoms of PTSD in 1990. During a five year span (20042008), the number of unique veterans seeking help for PTSD in the VA system increased from 274,000 to
442,000. Also, according to a review of several studies investigating the prevalence of PTSD in U.S.
Veterans of the first Persian Gulf War, the Board on Population Health and Public Health Practice at the
Introduction
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National Academies of Science (2008) reported that the PCL-based prevalence of PTSD in a sample of
11,441 veterans was 12.1 percent. This review also cited evidence that ten years after the 1990 Gulf War,
6.2 percent of a sample of veterans still suffered from PTSD.
The number of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans who have been separated from service, seen in U.S.
Veteran’s Administration healthcare facilities, and diagnosed with PTSD was reported by Seal and
colleagues (2007). Of the 103,788 veterans included in this review, the overall prevalence of PTSD was 13
percent, higher than any other mental health diagnostic category reported by these authors. The VA’s
Uniform Services Handbook sets standards for mental healthcare across VA facilities and is intended to
both improve quality of care and facilitate implementation of evidence-based practices. In recent years, the
exponential increase in clinical services for veterans with PTSD has been driven by the combination of
improved diagnostic and treatment techniques for all stress-related disorders, the needs of veterans from
past wars as far back as World War II, the co-morbid conditions many veterans experience in addition to
PTSD (chronic medical conditions, SUD), and the ongoing nature of the current wars in Iraq and
Afghanistan.
Post-Traumatic Stress in DoD population:
A number of studies have been conducted to estimate the prevalence and incidence of PTSD in military
personnel during the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. These studies have shown high consistency in rates, when
grouped according to study population (e.g., studies involving Army or Marine combat infantry units
versus studies involving samples of the deploying population at large, including personnel from support
units or services not involved in direct combat).
One of the first and most cited epidemiological surveys to provide estimates of PTSD prevalence in
military personnel who served in Afghanistan or Iraq was published by Hoge et al. (2004). The prevalence
of PTSD 3 months post-deployment among infantry soldiers and Marines who returned from high-intensity
combat in Iraq was 12.9 percent and 12.2 percent, respectively (n = 894 soldiers, 815 Marines), based on a
stringent definition for PTSD supported in a study by Terhakopian et al. (2008) (PCL score of at least 50
combined with DSM criteria). By comparison, the rate among soldiers who had deployed to Afghanistan,
where there was very low-intensity combat at that time, was 6.2 percent, and the baseline rate in a group of
soldiers before deployment was 5 percent. This study also highlighted the impact that stigma and barriers to
care have on willingness to receive help. Less than half of the soldiers in need of mental health services
received care, and many reported concerns that they would be treated differently by peers or leaders if they
sought care.
In a subsequent survey involving active and National Guard brigade combat teams (infantry), rates of 15
percent were documented at three months post-deployment and rose to 17-25 percent at twelve months
post-deployment using the same definitions as in the 2004 article (Thomas et al., 2010).
In-theater assessments of personnel in ground combat units have been conducted on nearly an annual basis
in Iraq and several times in Afghanistan since the start of the wars (Army Mental Health Advisory Team
Assessments–MHATs). These studies have found rates of acute stress or PTSD (based on a PCL ≥50
points) of 10-20 percent, with a strong correlation to combat frequency and intensity. Rates in units
exposed to minimal combat were similar to baseline rates in the population (5 percent), and there was a
linear increase up to 25 percent in units involved in the highest-intensity combat. The Afghanistan theater
showed lower rates earlier in the war (7 percent in 2005), but they increased to levels comparable with Iraq
in 2007 and thereafter.
In addition to studies based on infantry samples, there have been a number of studies based on postdeployment health assessments, healthcare utilization records, and random samples of military or veteran
populations, including those not engaged in direct combat (Hoge et al., 2006; Milliken et al., 2007;
Tanielian et al., 2008; Smith et al.,2008; Fear et al., 2010; and others). General population samples that do
not focus specifically on combat units have resulted in lower rates than reported in infantry samples, but
estimates approach infantry samples when analyses are restricted to Army or Marine personnel with
combat experience. While most studies have focused on point prevalence of PTSD, one study has looked at
the 3-year incidence in a large representative population sample (Smith et al., 2008). The cumulative
incidence was 9 percent in Army personnel who had experienced combat, which equates to a prevalence of
approximately 12 percent, including those excluded for PTSD at baseline. Overall, baseline pre-deployment
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Management of Post-Traumatic Stress
rates in military samples have ranged from 3-6 percent, comparable to civilian rates reported in the
National Co-morbidity Study (Kessler et al., 2005), and post-deployment rates have ranged from 6-20
percent. The strongest predictors of increased prevalence post-deployment have been combat frequency and
intensity. There are also many other types of traumatic experience that service members encounter, both in
their professional military occupations and in their pre-military or off-duty time, including exposure to
accidents, assault, rape, natural disasters, and other experiences.
Outcome Measures:
The Working Group (WG) agreed on the following health-related outcomes for management of posttraumatic stress:
•
•
•
•
•
•
Improvement in quality of life (social and occupational functioning)
Reduced morbidity/mortality
Improvement over long term
Patient Satisfaction
Co-morbidity
Improvement of symptoms.
Guideline Goals:
The most important goal of the VA/DoD Clinical Practice Guideline for the Management of PostTraumatic Stress is to provide scientific evidence-based practice evaluations and interventions. The
guideline was developed to assist facilities in implementing processes of care that are evidence-based and
designed to achieve maximum functionality and independence, as well as improve patient and family
quality of life. The related specifics are:
•
•
•
•
To identify the critical decision points in the management of patients with post-traumatic stress
disorder
To allow flexibility so that local policies or procedures, such as those regarding referrals to or
consultation with specialty care (mental healthcare), can be accommodated
To decrease the development of complications and co-morbidity
To improve patient outcomes—i.e., reduce symptoms, decrease co-morbidity, increase functional
status, and enhance the quality of life.
Development Process:
The development process of this guideline follows a systematic approach described in “Guideline-forGuidelines,” an internal working document of the VA/DoD Evidence-Based Practice Working Group that
requires an ongoing review of the work in progress. Appendix A clearly describes the guideline
development process followed for this guideline.
The Offices of Quality and Performance and Patient Care Service of the VA, in collaboration with the
network Clinical Managers, and the Medical Center Command of the DoD identified clinical leaders to
champion the guideline development process. During a preplanning conference call, the clinical leaders
defined the scope of the guideline and identified a group of clinical experts from the VA and DoD that
formed the Guideline Development Working Group.
At the start of the update process, the clinical leaders, guideline panel members, outside experts, and
experts in the field of guideline and algorithm development were consulted to determine which aspects of
the 2004 guideline required updating. These consultations resulted in the following recommendations that
guided the update efforts: (1) update any recommendations from the original guideline likely to be affected
by new research findings; (2) provide information and recommendations on health system changes relevant
to the management of post-traumatic stress; (3) address content areas and models of treatment for which
little data existed during the development of the original guideline; and (4) review the performance and
lessons learned since the implementation of the original guideline
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Review of Literature and Evidence:
Recommendations for the performance or inclusion of specific procedures or services in this guideline were
derived through a rigorous methodological approach that included the following:
• Determining appropriate criteria, such as effectiveness, efficacy, population benefit, and patient
satisfaction
• Performing a comprehensive literature search and selection of relevant studies from January 2002 to
August 2009 to identify the best available evidence and ensure maximum coverage of studies at the top
of the hierarchy of study types
• Reviewing the selected studies to determine the strength of the evidence in relation to these criteria
• Formulating the recommendations and grading the level of evidence supporting each recommendation.
This 2010 update builds on the 2004 version of the guideline and incorporates information from the
following existing evidence-based guidelines/reports identified by the Working Group as appropriate seed
documents:
• ISTSS (2009) - Effective Treatments for PTSD: Practice Guidelines from the International Society for
Traumatic Stress Studies. Foa EB, Keane TM, Friedman MJ. Cohen J (Eds) 2009. New York: Guilford
Press.
•
IOM (2007) - Institute of Medicine (IOM). 2008. Treatment of post-traumatic stress disorder: An
assessment of the evidence. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press.
• APA (2009) - Practice Guideline for the Treatment of Patients with Acute Stress Disorder and
Posttraumatic Stress Disorder: Guideline Watch, March 2009.
Literature searches were conducted, covering the period from January 2002 through August 2009, that
combined terms for post-traumatic stress, acute stress reaction (ASR), acute stress disorder (ASD), acute
post-traumatic stress disorder, and chronic post-traumatic stress disorder. Electronic searches were
supplemented by reference lists, and additional citations were suggested by experts. The identified and
selected studies on those issues were critically analyzed, and evidence was graded using a standardized
format, based on the system used by the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF, 2007).
If evidence exists, the discussion following the recommendations for each annotation includes an evidence
table identifying the studies that have been considered, the quality of the evidence, and the rating of the
strength of the recommendation [SR]. The Strength of Recommendation, based on the level of the evidence
and graded using the USPSTF rating system (see Table: Evidence Rating System), is presented in brackets
following each guideline recommendation.
Evidence Rating System
SR
A
B
C
D
I
A strong recommendation that clinicians provide the intervention to eligible patients.
Good evidence was found that the intervention improves important health outcomes and
concludes that benefits substantially outweigh harm.
A recommendation that clinicians provide (the service) to eligible patients.
At least fair evidence was found that the intervention improves health outcomes and concludes
that benefits outweigh harm.
No recommendation for or against the routine provision of the intervention is made.
At least fair evidence was found that the intervention can improve health outcomes but
concludes that the balance of benefits and harms is too close to justify a general
recommendation.
Recommendation is made against routinely providing the intervention to asymptomatic patients.
At least fair evidence was found that the intervention is ineffective or that the harms outweigh
benefits.
The conclusion is that the evidence is insufficient to recommend for or against routinely
providing the intervention.
Evidence that the intervention is effective is lacking, of poor quality, or conflicting, and the
balance of benefits and harms can not be determined.
SR = Strength of recommendation
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Where existing literature was ambiguous or conflicting, or where scientific data was lacking on an issue,
recommendations are based on the clinical experience of the Working Group. Although several of the
recommendations in this guideline are based on weak evidence, some of these recommendations are
strongly recommended, based on the experience and consensus of the clinical experts and researchers of the
Working Group. Recommendations that are based on a consensus of the Working Group include a
discussion on the given topic. No [SR] is presented for these recommendations. A complete bibliography of
the references in this guideline can be found in Appendix E
This Guideline is the product of many months of diligent effort and consensus-building among
knowledgeable individuals from the VA and DoD and a guideline facilitator from the private sector. An
experienced moderator facilitated the multidisciplinary Working Group. The draft document was discussed
in two face-to-face group meetings. The content and validity of each section were thoroughly reviewed in a
series of conference calls. The final document is the product of those discussions and has been approved by
all members of the Working Group.
The list of participants is included in Appendix D to the guideline.
Implementation:
The guideline and algorithms are designed to be adapted by individual facilities in consideration of local
needs and resources. The algorithms serve as a guide that providers can use to determine best interventions
and timing of care for their patients in order to optimize quality of care and clinical outcomes.
Although this guideline represents the state-of-the-art practice on the date of its publication, medical
practice is evolving, and this evolution requires continuous updating of published information. New
technology and more research will improve patient care in the future. The clinical practice guideline can
assist in identifying priority areas for research and optimal allocation of resources. Future studies
examining the results of clinical practice guidelines such as these may lead to the development of new
practice-based evidence.
KEY POINTS ADDRESSED BY THIS GUIDELINE
1.
2.
3.
4.
5.
6.
7.
8.
9.
10.
Triage and management of acute traumatic stress
Routine primary care screening for trauma and related symptoms
Diagnosis of trauma syndromes and co-morbidities
Evidence-based management of trauma-related symptoms and functioning
Collaborative patient/provider decision-making, education, and goal-setting
Coordinated and sustained follow-up
Identification of major gaps in current knowledge
Outline for psychological care in ongoing military operations
Proactive strategies to promote resilience and prevent trauma-related stress disorders
Standardized longitudinal care (DoD/VA, Primary Care/Mental Health)
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OVERVIEW OF GUIDELINE UPDATE
This clinical practice guideline updates the 2004 version of the VA/DoD Guideline on Management of
Post-Traumatic Stress. The Working Group (WG) developed a revised, comprehensive clinical algorithm.
The objective of the VA/DoD Working Group in developing this revision was to incorporate the
accumulating experience in the field and information from the original guideline recommendations into a
format that would maximally facilitate clinical decision-making. Randomized controlled trials and
systematic reviews were identified and have been carefully appraised and included in the analysis of the
evidence for this update. Promoting evidence-based treatment ultimately enhances and optimizes treatment
outcomes, thus contributing to optimal care across institutional boundaries and promoting a smooth
transition of care between the DOD and the VA healthcare systems.
The current revision incorporates the four Modules of the 2004 guideline into a CORE module and two
management Modules: 1) Acute Stress Reaction and early interventions to prevent PTSD; and 2)
Management of PTSD. Where evidence suggests differences in the management of Acute Stress Reactions
(ASR), Acute Stress Disorder (ASD), and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), specific treatment
intervention recommendations are provided.
The VA/DoD Working Group reviewed the International Society for Traumatic Stress Studies clinical
practice guideline (Foa et al., 2009) and made the decision to adopt several of their evidence-based
recommendations. In addition, identified randomized controlled trials and systematic reviews published in
the past 7 years have been carefully appraised and included in the analysis of the evidence for this update.
The first Module incorporates the assessment, diagnosis, and management of symptoms of Acute Stress
Reaction (ASR) in the immediate period after exposure to trauma, the management of Acute Stress
Disorder (ASD), and the effective early interventions to prevent progression of stress reactions to full
PTSD. Additional recommendations were added for the assessment and management of Combat and
Operational Stress Reaction (COSR), addressing specific actions that the WG considered to be of
importance for providers caring for service members with symptoms.
The second Module addresses the diagnosis and management of patients with Post-Traumatic Stress
Disorder (PTSD). The WG revised the algorithm for this module in a patient-centered approach that
emphasizes the decisions and interventions shown to be effective in treating PTSD, regardless of the
treatment setting. This approach should allow for the use of the guideline as a starting point for innovative
plans that improve collaborative efforts and focus on key aspects of care. The recommendations outlined in
this guideline should serve as a framework for the care that is provided in both, specialty mental healthcare
settings and primary care. The optimal setting of care for the individual patient will depend on patient
preferences, the level of expertise of the provider, and available resources.
The WG recognizes that PTSD is often accompanied by other psychiatric conditions. Such co-morbidities
require clinical attention at the point of diagnosis and throughout the process of treatment. Disorders of
particular concern are substance use disorder, major depression, and post-concussive symptoms attributed
to mild TBI. The WG also recognizes the fact that few trials have been published that can provide guidance
on how to manage PTSD that is complicated by co-morbid illness. The revised guideline includes
recommendations based on the experience and opinion of the experts, providing suggestions for the
approach to treatment of PTSD in the presence of co-morbid psychiatric conditions.
Working Group consensus-based recommendations are added to the 2010 revision of the CPG regarding
specific adjunct treatment interventions that target specific symptoms frequently seen in patients with acute
stress reactions (beyond the core symptoms of ASD/PTSD). These include sleep disturbance, pain, and
anger. These consensus-based recommendations are aimed to help the primary care practitioners and others
to provide brief symptom-focused treatment.
Finally, clinicians following these updated guidelines should not limit themselves only to the approaches
and techniques addressed in the guideline. All current treatments have limitations—not all patients respond
to them, patients drop out of treatment, or providers are not comfortable using a particular intervention.
Creative integration of combined treatments that are driven by sound evidence-based principles is
encouraged in the field.
Introduction
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VA/DoD Clinical Practice Guideline for the
Management of Post-Traumatic Stress
VA/DoD GUIDELINE WORKING GROUP
VHA
DoD
Ron Acierno, PhD
Kathleen Chard, PhD
Daniella David, MD
Matt Friedman, MD (Co-Chair)
Matt Jeffreys, MD
Terry Keane, PhD
Harold Kudler, MD
Todd Semla, PharmD
Sheila Rauch, PhD
Josef Ruzek, PhD (Co-Chair)
Steve Southwick, MD
Murray Stein, MD
Reviewers and Contributors:
Nancy Bernardy, PhD
LTC Edward Brusher, LCSW
Bruce Capehart, MD, MBA
Michael Clark, PhD
Kent Drescher, PhD
Carolyn Green, PhD
Barbara Hermann, PhD
Julia Hoffman, Psy.D
Dan Kivlahan, PhD
Eric Kuhn, PhD
Walter Penk, PhD
Paula Schnurr, PhD
James Spira, PhD, MPH
Jennifer Vasterling, PhD
Office of Quality and Performance
Carla Cassidy, RN, MSN, NP
Kathryn J. Dolter, RN, PhD
Curtis Aberle, NP
LT Justin Campbell, PhD
MAJ Debra Dandridge, PharmD
COL Charles Engel, MD
Capt Joel Foster, PhD
CDR Stella Hayes, MD
Charles Hoge, MD
MAJ Kenneth Hyde, PA
CAPT Robert Koffman, MD
COL James Liffrig, MD
COL Patrick Lowry, MD (Co-Chair)
LTC Sandra McNaughton, NP
David Orman, MD
Alan Peterson, PhD
Miguel Roberts, PhD
CAPT Mark Stephens, MD
CAPT Frances Stewart, MD
MAJ Christopher Warner, MD
Lt Col Randon Welton, MD
LTC Robert Wilson, PhD
US Army Medical Command
Ernest Degenhardt, MSN, RN, ANP-FNP
Marjory Waterman, MN, RN
Guideline Facilitator: Oded Susskind, MPH
Research and Evidence Appraisal
Hayes Inc. Lansdale, PA
Susan A. Levine, DVM, PhD
Arlene Mann, R.N.
Introduction
Healthcare Quality Informatics:
Martha D’Erasmo, MPH
Rosalie Fishman, RN, MSN, CPHQ
Sue Radcliff
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TABLE OF CONTENTS
CORE MODULE: ALGORITHM
14
CORE MODULE: ANNOTATIONS
15
1. PRIMARY PREVENTION...................................................................... 15
A. Education and Training to Foster Resilience
15
2. POPULATIONS AT-RISK FOR DEVELOPING PTSD ............................... 17
B. Person Exposed to Trauma
17
3. SECONDARY PREVENTION ................................................................. 18
C. Screen for PTSD Symptoms
18
D. Are Trauma-Related Symptoms Present?
20
E. Educate About Additional Care If Needed; Provide Contact Information 25
MODULE A: ACUTE STRESS REACTION (ASR) and
PREVENTION OF POST-TRAUMATIC STRESS DISORDER (PTSD)
28
MODULE A: ALGORITHM
29
MODULE A: ANNOTATIONS
30
1. ASSESSMENT & TRIAGE ..................................................................... 30
A. Trauma Exposure (within the past 30 days)
30
B. Assess Briefly Based on General Appearance and Behavior
31
C. Unstable, Dangerous to Self or Others, or
Need for Urgent Medical Attention
32
D. Ensure Basic Physical Needs Are Met
34
E. Person has Trauma-Related Symptoms, Significant Impaired Function, or
Diagnosis of ASD
39
F. Assess Medical and Functional Status
42
G. Assess Pre-Existing Psychiatric and Medical Conditions
43
H Assess Risk Factors for Developing ASD/PTSD
43
2. TREATMENT ....................................................................................... 45
I.
Provide Education and Normalization / Expectancy of Recovery
45
J. Initiate Brief Intervention
45
K. Acute Symptom Management
49
L1. Facilitate Spiritual Support
50
L2. Facilitate Social Support
50
3. RE-ASSESSMENT ................................................................................ 51
M. Reassess Symptoms and Function
51
4. FOLLOW-UP ....................................................................................... 52
N. Persistent (>1 Month) or Worsening Symptoms, Significant Functional
Impairment, or High Risk for Development of PTSD.
52
O. Monitor and Follow-Up
54
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MODULE B: ALGORITHM
56
MODULE B: ANNOTATIONS
58
1. ASSESSMENT ..................................................................................... 58
A. Assessment of Stress Related Symptoms
58
B. Assessment of Trauma Exposure
60
C. Assessment of Dangerousness to Self or Others
61
D. Obtain Medical History, Physical Examination, Laboratory Tests
and Psychosocial Assessment
65
E. Assessment of Function, Duty/Work Responsibilities and
Patient’s Fitness (In Relation To Military Operations)
68
F. Assessment of Risk/Protective Factors
71
2. TRIAGE .............................................................................................. 78
G. Diagnosis of PTSD or Clinical Significant Symptoms Suggestive of PTSD? 78
H. Assess for Co-Occurring Disorders
81
I. Educate Patient and Family
84
J. Determine Optimal Setting for Management of PTSD and
Co-Occurring Disorders
86
J1. Management of PTSD with Co-morbidity
86
J2. Management of Concurrent PTSD and Substance Use Disorder
88
J3. The Role of the Primary Care Practitioner
91
3. TREATMENT ....................................................................................... 91
K. Initiate Treatment Using Effective Interventions for PTSD
91
L. Facilitate Spiritual Support
93
M. Facilitate Social Support
93
4. RE-ASSESSMENT ................................................................................ 94
N. Assess Response to Treatment
94
O. Follow-Up
95
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MODULE I: TREATMENT INTERVENTIONS
VA/DoD Clinical Practice Guideline for the
Management of Post-Traumatic Stress
101
Module I-1. EARLY INTERVENTIONS TO PREVENT PTSD ..................... 102
A. PSYCHOTHERAPY
104
A1. Psychological Debriefing
104
A2. Brief Early Cognitive-Behavioral Intervention
108
A3. Other Early Interventions
109
B. Early Pharmacotherapy Interventions to Prevent PTSD
110
Module I-2. TREATMENT FOR PTSD...................................................... 114
A. Selection of Therapy for PTSD
114
B. PSYCHOTHERAPY INTERVENTIONS FOR PTSD
115
B1. Therapies that More Strongly Emphasize Cognitive Techniques (CT) 119
B2. Exposure Therapy (ET)
123
B3. Stress Inoculation Training (SIT)
126
B5. Imagery Rehearsal Therapy (IRT)
130
B6. Psychodynamic Therapy
132
B7. Patient Education
133
B9. Dialectical Behavior Therapy
140
B10. Hypnosis
142
B11. Behavioral Couples Therapy
143
B12. Telemedicine and Web-based Interventions
144
C. PHARMACOTHERAPY FOR PTSD
149
D. ADJUNCTIVE SERVICES
167
D1. Psychosocial Rehabilitation
167
D2. Spiritual Support
172
E. SOMATIC TREATMENT
173
E1. Biomedical Somatic Therapies
173
E2. Acupuncture
175
F. COMPLEMENTARY AND ALTERNATIVE MEDICINE
176
F1. Natural Products (Biologically Based Practices)
178
F2. Mind-Body Medicine
179
F3. Manipulation and Body-Based Practices (Exercise and Movement)
180
F4. Energy medicine
180
F5. Whole Medical Systems
181
F6. Other Approaches
182
Module I-3. MANAGEMENT OF SPECIFIC SYMPTOMS ........................... 183
A. Sleep Disturbances
183
B. Pain
189
C. Irritability, Severe Agitation, or Anger
194
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CORE MODULE: ALGORITHM
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CORE MODULE: ANNOTATIONS
1. PRIMARY PREVENTION
A. Education and Training to Foster Resilience
OBJECTIVE
Prepare individuals and groups for exposure to potentially traumatic experiences in
ways that minimize the likelihood of development of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder
(PTSD) and other trauma-related problems.
BACKGROUND
Because exposure to traumatic stressors is part of the expected work experience of
some occupations (e.g., military personnel and emergency services workers), it is
sensible to make efforts to prepare individuals in these professions for their
encounters with traumatic events. This preparation is not explicitly undertaken in
most workplaces, with some exceptions (e.g., some military training environments).
To date, research has not examined our capacity to prepare individuals or
communities for trauma exposure. However, general principles of preparation can be
outlined that are consistent with theoretical models of the development of PTSD,
research on risk factors for development of PTSD, and emerging concepts of
resilience and hardiness.
RECOMMENDATIONS
1. In high-risk occupations, for which the probability of trauma exposure is
moderate or high, efforts should be undertaken to increase the psychological
resilience of workers to the negative effects of trauma exposure.
DISCUSSION
Although little is directly known about our capacity to prepare individuals or
communities for trauma exposure, it is possible to identify principles of preparation
that are consistent with empirical research on risk and resilience factors and with
current theories of PTSD development. Such pre-trauma preparation can include
attention to both the ability to cope during the trauma itself and shaping the posttrauma environment so that it will foster post-trauma adaptation.
Some influential theories of PTSD posit that a process of classical fear conditioning
can lead to development of chronic PTSD symptomatology. In this process, stimuli
associated with the traumatic experience can elicit responses similar to those
experienced during the trauma itself (e.g., intense anxiety). Other theories suggest
that individuals who develop negative trauma-related beliefs (e.g., about personal
guilt) will be more likely to experience continuing trauma reactions, because such
beliefs will maintain a sense of threat and personal incompetence. Research on risk
factors for PTSD indicates that post-trauma social support and life stress affect the
likelihood of development of the disorder. Protective factors have also been identified
that mitigate the negative effects of stress. Research is beginning to delineate the
psychological processes that moderate an individual’s response to stress and to
explore training programs for increasing resilience to stress. Hardiness (Kobasa et
al., 1982) is one personality factor that has been demonstrated to buffer against
traumatic stress and PTSD in military veterans (King et al., 1998; Bartone, 2000).
Zach, Raviv & Inbar (2007) found that hardiness levels increased for Special Forces
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trainees over the course of a stressful training/selection program in which challenges
were gradually more difficult, and leaders were consistently supportive and
encouraged trainees to view failures as learning opportunities. Hardiness is
characterized by three key attributes: ability to perceive control over life’s events;
ability to make strong commitment to tasks; and ability to see stressful experiences
as a challenge to be overcome. Training programs, personnel policies, and leadership
strategies that promote hardiness may thereby increase an individual’s ability to
resist the negative effects of traumatic stress.
Such findings and theories are consistent with the following principles of preparation:
1.
Provide realistic training that includes vicarious, simulated, or actual exposure to
traumatic stimuli that may be encountered. Examples of application of this
principle in military training include exposure to live weapons fire, survival
training, or, for subgroups of military personnel, mock captivity training. This
principle can be applied to many work roles—for example, those likely to be
involved in body handling might be trained in mortuary environments. It is
consistent with classical conditioning theories, in that this can help reduce arousal
or anxiety associated with particular traumatic stimuli.
2.
Strengthen perceived ability to cope during the trauma and with the aftermath.
Realistic training contributes to this goal. Instruction and practice in the use of a
variety of coping skills (e.g., stress inoculation training, problem-solving,
assertion, and cognitive restructuring) may be helpful in enabling workers to
tolerate stressful work environments. In addition, individuals can be trained to
cope with acute stress reactions that are common following trauma exposure.
Such training experiences help to maximize expectations of mastery of traumatic
situations and their physical and emotional sequelae. Use of positive role models
(leaders and peers) is also an effective tool for building up the sense of ability to
cope. The training must include specific, practical actions to change the
threatening or horrifying situation for the better. Without such positive action
learning, "simulated" terrifying or horrifying situations and stimuli can induce
feelings of helplessness that make the training itself traumatizing.
3.
Create supportive interpersonal work environments that are likely to provide
significant social support during and after traumatic events. Efforts to build teams
and establish group cohesion among work group members are important in this
regard. Identification and training of peer stress management consultants and
training and practice in the provision of peer social support may also be useful.
Families are crucial in post-trauma support and can be given information about,
and training in, ways of providing social support. Finally, competent, ethical
leadership at all levels of the organization helps protect against traumatization.
4.
Develop and maintain adaptive beliefs about the work role and traumatic
experiences that may be encountered within it. Key beliefs will be related to
realistic expectancies about the work environment, confidence in leadership,
confidence in the meaningfulness or value of the work role, positive but realistic
appraisals of one's coping ability, and knowledge about the commonness and
transitory nature of most acute stress reactions. It may be useful to identify and
discuss negative beliefs that sometimes arise in the specific work environment in
order to “inoculate” against such beliefs.
5.
Develop workplace-specific comprehensive traumatic stress management
programs. Such programs can be a significant source of post-trauma support
(e.g., via Chaplains or mental health professionals) that can minimize traumarelated problems among workers. It is important to take steps to increase
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awareness of such services and to de-stigmatize and reduce the potential
negative consequences of their use. For example, employees should be helped to
understand that seeking help in confronting symptoms and problems early in
their development is likely to be more effective than avoiding them or keeping
them secret from others but that even long-hidden or persisting PTSD can be
treated.
Comprehensive preparation programs that target and incorporate these principles
and that are integrated themselves into existing unit/community programs and
support systems may be expected to be most helpful (Gist & Lubin, 1999).
2. POPULATIONS AT-RISK FOR DEVELOPING PTSD
B. Person Exposed to Trauma
OBJECTIVE
Assess the nature of the traumatic event and other potential stressors.
BACKGROUND
A number of sufferers with PTSD may recover with no or limited interventions.
However, without effective treatment, many people may develop chronic problems
over many years. The severity of the initial traumatic response is a reasonable
indicator of the need for early intervention. Families and care-givers have a central
role in supporting people with stress symptoms. Depending on the nature of the
trauma and its consequences, many families may also need support for themselves.
RECOMMENDATIONS
1. Persons exposed to trauma should be assessed for the type, frequency, nature,
and severity of the trauma. [B]
a. Assessment should include a broad range of potential trauma exposures in
addition to the index trauma.
b. Trauma Exposure Assessment Instruments may assist in evaluating the
nature and severity of the exposure.
c. Assessment of existing social supports and ongoing stressors is important.
DISCUSSION
Although exposure to trauma is common, several risk factors for the development of
PTSD have been identified. Trauma-related risks include the nature, severity, and
duration of the trauma exposure. For example, life-threatening traumas, such as
physical injury or rape, pose a high risk of PTSD (Kilpatrick, 1989). A prior history of
trauma exposure conveys a greater risk of PTSD from subsequent trauma (Breslau et
al., 1999).
Post-trauma risks include poor social support and life stress (Brewin et al., 2000). A
greater risk for developing PTSD may be conveyed by post-trauma factors (e.g., lack
of social support and additional life stress) than pre-trauma factors.
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3. SECONDARY PREVENTION
C. Screen for PTSD Symptoms
OBJECTIVE
Identify possible cases of post-traumatic stress
BACKGROUND
Patients do not often self-identify as suffering with PTSD, and patients with
unrecognized PTSD are often difficult to treat because of poor patient/provider
rapport, anger and distrust, a focus on somatic symptoms, and other trauma-related
problems. Research supports the utility of brief screening tools for identifying
undiagnosed cases of PTSD. Identification of PTSD may help facilitate development
of rapport, suggest treatment options, and potentially improve outcomes for these
patients.
RECOMMENDATIONS
1. All new patients should be screened for symptoms of PTSD initially and then on
an annual basis or more frequently if clinically indicated due to clinical suspicion,
recent trauma exposure (e.g., major disaster), or history of PTSD. [B]
2. Patients should be screened for symptoms of PTSD using paper-and-pencil or
computer-based screening tools. [B]
3. There is insufficient evidence to recommend one PTSD screening tool versus
another. However, the following screening tools have been validated and should
be considered for use. For example: (See Appendix C)
-
Primary Care PTSD Screen (PC-PTSD)
-
PTSD Brief Screen
-
Short Screening Scale for DSM IV PTSD.
-
PTSD Checklist (PCL)
4. There is insufficient evidence to recommend special screening for members of
any cultural or racial group or gender. [I]
DISCUSSION
The benefit of screening is well established for diseases with high prevalence. In one
study (Taubman et al., 2001), 23 percent of patients presenting in the primary care
setting reported exposure to traumatic events, and 39 percent of those met criteria
for PTSD. Screening strategies should, however, balance efficacy with practical
concerns (e.g., staffing, time constraints, and current clinical practices). Brevity,
simplicity, and ease of implementation should encourage compliance with
recommended screening. Care should be exercised in implementing screening in
ways that avoid social stigmatization and adverse occupational effects of positive
screens.
Brewin (2005) reviewed published screening instruments for civilian PTSD, consisting
of 30 items or fewer, that were validated against structured clinical interviews.
Thirteen instruments were identified as meeting these criteria, all consisting of
symptoms of traumatic stress. The review concluded that the performance of some
currently available instruments is near their maximal potential effectiveness and that
instruments with fewer items, simpler response scales, and simpler scoring methods
perform as well as, if not better, than longer and more complex measures.
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Screening Tools: (See Appendix C)
Primary Care PTSD Screen (PC-PTSD): This is a 4-item screen that was designed for
use in primary care and other medical settings and is currently used to screen for
PTSD in veterans at the VA. The screen includes an introductory sentence to cue
respondents to traumatic events. The authors suggest that in most circumstances,
the results of the PC-PTSD should be considered "positive" if a patient answers "yes"
to any 3 items. Those who screen positive should then be assessed with a structured
interview for PTSD. The screen does not include a list of potentially traumatic events
(Prins et al., 2003). Internal consistency (KR20=.79) and test-retest reliability
(r=.84) of the PC-PTSD were found to be good (Prins et al., 1999). The operating
characteristics of the screen suggest that the overall efficiency (i.e., optimal
sensitivity and specificity =.87) is best when any two items are endorsed. The PCPTSD screen has been validated in a military population (Bliese et al., 2008) and has
been used extensively in post-deployment screening efforts (Hoge, 2004).
PTSD Brief Screen: The PTSD Brief Screen was developed using the rationally
derived approach, based on data from the National Co-morbidity Survey. Construct
validity has generally been adequate. The overall efficiency of this screen was good
(.78), whereas the correlations were significantly lower or negative for other mental
disorders, indicating good construct validity (Leskin et al., 1999).
PTSD Checklist (PCL): The PCL has been used extensively in military and civilian
populations, and there are numerous validation studies, including studies in military
populations (Terhakopian et al., 2008).
Special Screening of Cultural or Racial Groups:
Research has centered on three broadly defined groups—Hispanics, Blacks/AfricanAmericans, and Whites/Caucasians—in the attempt to answer two questions: First,
are members of one or more groups more susceptible to developing PTSD? Second,
are the symptoms shown by members of any group more severe or otherwise
different from symptoms shown by other veterans with PTSD?
There are data to suggest that Blacks/African-Americans and Hispanics experience
higher rates of PTSD than do Whites/Caucasians (Frueh et al., 1998; Ortega &
Rosenheck, 2000). But, as Frueh and his colleagues note in a systematic review,
“secondary analyses within the existing epidemiological studies suggest that
differential rates of PTSD between racial groups may be a function of differential
rates of traumatic stressors and other pre-existing conditions. This finding, in
combination with the general paucity of empirical data and certain methodological
limitations, significantly moderates the conclusions that should be reached from this
body of literature.” Studies in military samples have generally shown no or minimal
race/ethnic differences in PTSD prevalence.
In terms of symptom severity and clinical course, the evidence is also mixed. Among
the studies reviewed here, the following conclusions were reached:
•
Two studies found Black/African-American veterans to be more severely affected
than Hispanics or Whites/Caucasians (Frueh et al., 1996; Penk et al., 1989)
•
The National Vietnam Veterans Readjustment Study (NVVRS) found higher PTSD
prevalence among Hispanic veterans than among Whites or Blacks after
controlling for combat exposure (Kulka et al., 1990; Schlenger et al., 1992).
•
One study found Hispanics to be more severely affected than Whites/Caucasians
but not to suffer from higher functional impairment levels than
Whites/Caucasians (Ortega and Rosenheck, 2000).
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•
Three studies found no significant clinical differences between Black/AfricanAmerican veterans and White/Caucasian veterans (Frueh et al., 1997; Rosenheck
and Fontana, 1996; Trent et al., 2000).
•
One review found no clinical differences among Hispanics, Blacks/AfricanAmericans, and Whites/Caucasians (Frueh et al., 1998)
•
One study found that American-of-Japanese Ancestry Vietnam Veterans had
lower PTSD prevalence than Caucasians (Friedman et al., 2004).
•
Among Vietnam Veterans, American Indians and Native Americans have higher
rates than Caucasian veterans whereas American of Japanese ancestry have
lower PTSD prevalence than Caucasians (Beals et al., 2002; Friedman et al.,
2004).
These results support Frueh et al. (1998) in their conclusion that “despite the
prevailing zeitgeist and clinical lore, the limited extant empirical evidence suggests
that veterans of different races are more similar to each other than they are different
when it comes to the clinical manifestation and response to treatment of combatrelated PTSD and associated features.”
EVIDENCE
1
2
3
Evidence
Screening all patients for PTSD
symptoms.
Screening tools:
Primary Care PTSD Screen
PTSD Brief Screen
Short Screening Scale for DSM IV
PTSD Checklist (PCL)
Special screening for members of any
cultural or racial group
Sources
Breslau et al., 1999a
Leskin & Westrup, 1999
Prins et al., 1999
Taubman et al., 2001
LE
II-2
QE
Fair
SR
B
Breslau et al., 1999a
Leskin & Westrup, 1999
Prins et al., 1999
Terhakopian, et al 2008
Frueh et al., 1996, 1997, 1998
Ortega & Rosenheck, 2000
Penk et al., 1989
Rosenheck & Fontana, 1996
Trent et al., 2000
Friedman 2004
II-2
Fair
B
III
Poor
I
LE – Level of Evidence; QE = Quality of Evidence; SR = Strength of Recommendation (see Appendix A)
D. Are Trauma-Related Symptoms Present?
OBJECTIVE
Identify people exposed to trauma who are at risk for developing acute stress
reactions (ASR), acute stress disorder (ASD), or Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder
(PTSD).
BACKGROUND
Warning Signs of Trauma-Related Stress (APA)
Individuals who have experienced a traumatic event often experience psychological
stress reactions related to the incident. In most instances, these are common normal
reactions to extreme situations. Individuals who feel they are unable to regain
control of their lives or who experience the following symptoms for more than a
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month should consider seeking outside professional mental health assistance. Some
symptoms to watch out for include:
•
Recurring thoughts, mental images, or nightmares about the event
•
Having trouble sleeping
•
Changes in appetite
•
Experiencing anxiety and fear, especially when exposed to events or situations
reminiscent of the trauma
•
Feeling on edge, being easily startled, or becoming overly alert
•
Feeling depressed or sad and having low energy
•
Experiencing memory problems, including difficulty in remembering aspects of
the trauma
•
Feeling "scattered" and unable to focus on work or daily activities
•
Having difficulty making decisions
•
Feeling irritable, easily agitated, or angry and resentful
•
Feeling emotionally "numb," withdrawn, disconnected, or different from others
•
Spontaneously crying, feeling a sense of despair and hopelessness
•
Feeling extremely protective of, or fearful for, the safety of loved ones
•
Not being able to face certain aspects of the trauma and avoiding activities,
places, or even people that remind you of the event.
RECOMMENDATIONS
1. Individuals who are presumed to have symptoms of PTSD or who are positive for
PTSD on the initial screening should receive a more detailed assessment of their
symptoms.
2. Useful symptom-related information may include details, such as time of onset,
frequency, course, severity, level of distress, and degree of functional
impairment.
3. The elapsed time since the exposure to trauma should be considered when
assessing the risk of developing PTSD and determining the diagnosis and
appropriate intervention.
The following definitions will help providers select the appropriate treatment
algorithm:
Stress-Related Disorders and Syndromes Definitions
Trauma
An extreme traumatic stressor i nvolving direct personal experience of an event that
involves a ctual or t hreatened death or serious injury or another threat t o one's
physical integrity; witnessing an event that involves death, injury, or a threat to the
physical integrity of a nother p erson; or learning about u nexpected o r violent d eath,
serious harm, or t hreat of death or i njury experienced by a family member or other
close associate. According to DSM-IV-TM criteria, the person's response to the event
must i nvolve i ntense f ear, h elplessness, or h orror. However, t here i s e vidence t hat
military personnel do not always respond in the same way as civilian victims of
traumatic e vents, a nd t he c riteria f or “ fear, h elpless, or h orror” are being
reconsidered in the proposed future DSM criteria (Adler, 2008).
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Acute Stress Reaction (ASR)
Acute stress reaction is a transient condition that develops in response to a traumatic
event. Onset of at least some signs and symptoms may be simultaneous with the
trauma itself or within minutes of the traumatic event and may follow the trauma
after an interval of hours or days. In most cases, symptoms will disappear within
days (even hours). Symptoms include a varying mixture of the following:
A broad group of physical, mental, and emotional signs and symptoms that
result from heavy mental and emotional work during exposure to difficult
potentially traumatic conditions.
Symptoms may include depression, fatigue, anxiety, decreased
concentration/memory, hyperarousal, or any of the four categories of reactions
(See Table CORE - 1) that have not resolved within four days after the event,
after a rule-out of other disorders.
The traumatic events that can lead to an acute stress reaction are of similar
severity to those involved in post-traumatic stress disorder.
Combat and Operational Stress Reaction (COSR) during an Ongoing Military Operation
COSR is the term used to describe an acute stress reaction in the combat
environment and can include virtually any symptom and sign, including physical and
neurological symptoms, resulting from exposure to extremely stressful events or
combat experiences. It may result from specific traumatic experiences in combat or
exhaustion due to the cumulative effects of one or more factors, including sleep
deprivation, extreme physical stress, poor sanitary conditions, limited caloric intake,
dehydration, or extremes of environmental conditions.
Acute Stress Disorder (ASD)
ASD refers to clinically significant (causing significant distress or impairment in
social, occupational, or other important areas of functioning) symptoms >2 days but
<1 month after exposure to a trauma, as defined above (may progress to PTSD if
symptoms last >1 month). Criteria for diagnosis include:
•
Exposure to trauma, as defined above
•
Either while experiencing or after experiencing the distressing event, the
individual has at least three of the following dissociative symptoms:
•
o
A subjective sense of numbing, detachment, and/or absence of emotional
responsiveness
o
A reduction in awareness of his/her surroundings (e.g., "being in a daze").
o
Derealization (the feeling that familiar surroundings or people are unreal
or have become strange)
o
Depersonalization (the feeling in an individual that (s)he is no longer
him/herself. His/Her personality, body, external events, and the whole
world may no longer appear to be real)
o
Dissociative amnesia (i.e., the inability to recall an important aspect of the
trauma).
The traumatic event is persistently re-experienced in at least one of the following
ways: recurrent images, thoughts, dreams, illusions, flashback episodes, or a
sense of reliving the experience or distress on exposure to reminders of the
traumatic event.
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•
Marked avoidance of stimuli that arouse recollections of the trauma (e.g.,
thoughts, feelings, conversations, activities, places, people, sounds, smells, or
others).
•
Marked symptoms of anxiety or increased arousal (e.g., difficulty sleeping,
irritability, poor concentration, hypervigilance, exaggerated startle response, and
motor restlessness).
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
Clinically significant symptoms that are causing significant distress or impairment in
social, occupational, or other important areas of functioning and occur more than one
month after exposure to a trauma. Symptoms may include:
The traumatic event is persistently re-experienced in one (or more) of the
following ways:
• Recurrent and intrusive recollections of the event, including images, thoughts, or
perceptions
• Recurrent distressing dreams of the event
•
Acting or feeling as if the traumatic event were recurring (includes a sense of
reliving the experience, illusions, hallucinations, and dissociative flashback
episodes, including those that occur on awakening or when intoxicated)
•
Intense psychological distress on exposure to internal or external cues that
symbolize or resemble an aspect of the traumatic event
•
Physiological reactivity on exposure to internal or external cues that symbolize or
resemble an aspect of the traumatic event.
Persistent avoidance of stimuli associated with the trauma and numbing of general
responsiveness (not present before the trauma), as indicated by three or more of the
following:
• Efforts to avoid thoughts, feeling, or conversations associated with the trauma
• Efforts to avoid activities, places, or people that arouse recollections of the
trauma
•
Inability to recall an important aspect of the trauma
•
Markedly diminished interest or participation in significant activities
•
Feeling of detachment or estrangement from others
•
Restricted range of affect (e.g., unable to have loving feelings)
•
Sense of foreshortened future (e.g., does not expect to have a career, marriage,
children, or a normal life span).
Persistent symptoms of increased arousal (not present before the trauma), as
indicated by at least two of the following:
• Difficulty falling or staying asleep
• Irritability or outbursts of anger
•
Difficulty concentrating
•
Hypervigilance
•
Exaggerated startle response.
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Acute PTSD
The clinically significant symptoms above continue to cause significant distress or
impairment in social, occupational, or other important areas of functioning, lasting
more than one month but less than 3 months after exposure to trauma.
Chronic PTSD
The clinically significant symptoms above cause significant distress or impairment in
social, occupational, or other important areas of functioning. The symptoms last
more than 3 months after exposure to trauma. Chronic PTSD is unlikely to improve
without effective treatment.
•
Some PTSD patients may exhibit persistent difficulties in interpersonal relations,
mood, somatization, and profound identity problems. Such presentation may be
often associated with sustained or repeated trauma during childhood or
adolescence (such as longstanding incest or physical abuse), but it may also be
associated with sustained trauma in later life or may appear as a late
consequence of chronic PTSD, even if the original traumatic stressor was a single
event.
•
Co-morbid – also meeting DSM criteria for another disorder, such as substance
use disorder, major depression disorder, other anxiety disorder, and mTBI among
military personal.
PTSD with Delayed Onset
Onset of the clinically significant symptoms above, causing significant distress or
impairment in social, occupational, or other important areas of functioning at least 6
months after exposure to trauma.
Figure 1. Stress Reaction Timeline.
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Table CORE - 1 Common Signs & Symptoms Following Exposure to Trauma
•
•
•
•
•
•
•
•
•
•
•
•
•
•
•
Physical
Chills
Difficulty breathing
Dizziness
Elevated blood pressure
Fainting
Fatigue
Grinding teeth
Headaches
Muscle tremors
Nausea
Pain
Profuse sweating
Rapid heart rate
Twitches
Weakness
•
•
•
•
•
•
•
•
•
•
•
•
•
Cognitive/Mental
Blaming someone
Change in alertness
Confusion
Hyper-vigilance
Increased or decreased
awareness of
surroundings
Intrusive images
Memory problems
Nightmares
Poor abstract thinking
Poor attention
Poor concentration
Poor decision-making
Poor problem solving
Emotional
Agitation
Anxiety
Apprehension
Denial
Depression
Emotional shock
Fear
Feeling overwhelmed
Grief
Guilt
Inappropriate
emotional response
• Irritability
• Loss of emotional
control
•
•
•
•
•
•
•
•
•
•
•
Behavioral
• Increased alcohol
consumption
• Antisocial acts
• Change in activity
• Change in communication
• Change in sexual
functioning
• Change in speech pattern
• Emotional outbursts
• Inability to rest
• Change in appetite
• Pacing
• Startle reflex intensified
• Suspiciousness
• Social withdrawal
E. Educate About Additional Care If Needed; Provide Contact Information
OBJECTIVE
Provide normalization for survivors and responders whose reactions are not clinically
significant
BACKGROUND
Trauma survivors and responders who are NOT experiencing signs or symptoms or
who are experiencing few symptoms should receive education. It should emphasize
that the observed reactions in the symptomatic survivors are common in the
aftermath of trauma and do not signify personal inadequacy, health problems,
mental illness, or other enduring negative consequences.
Contemporary approaches to early intervention following trauma exposure
emphasize the importance of “normalization” of acute stress reactions. Survivors or
responders who show distressing symptoms or disturbed behavior should be
educated to understand that their reactions are common, normal responses to the
extreme events. Such an approach follows from the common clinical observation that
individuals experiencing acute stress reactions often interpret their reactions as signs
of “personal weakness” or evidence that they are “going crazy,” which increases their
demoralization and distress. Normalization is undermined if survivors or responders
who are not experiencing disruptive distress show a derogatory or punitive attitude
to others who are.
Also, the persons with distress who most strongly deny or dissociate from their
distress may be at increased risk for developing acute stress disorder (ASD) and
subsequent PTSD. The education and normalization may therefore help them
recognize how to protect themselves better and to seek care early if symptoms do
interfere with their “self-control.” Even those who go on to develop PTSD may benefit
from an understanding that their symptoms do not represent “personal weakness”
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and that although their symptoms may be severe and painful, they are not losing
control of their minds.
RECOMMENDATIONS
1. Pre- and post-trauma education should include helping the asymptomatic trauma
survivor or responder understand that the acute stress reactions of other people
are common and probably transient and do not indicate personal failure or
weakness, mental illness, or health problems.
2. Education should include sufficient review of the many ways that post-traumatic
problems can present, including symptoms in the ASD/PTSD spectrum,
behavioral problems with family and friends, occupational problems, and the
potential impact of alcohol or other substance misuse/abuse.
3. Education should also include positive messages by identifying and encouraging
positive ways of coping, describing simple strategies to resolve or cope with
developing symptoms and problems, and setting expectations for mastery and/or
recovery.
4. Provide contact information, should post-traumatic symptoms emerge later.
5. Routine debriefing or formal psychotherapy is not beneficial for asymptomatic
individuals and may be harmful. [D]
DISCUSSION
Individuals who do not exhibit symptoms may have family members or close friends
who are symptomatic. The clinician should educate them about their role in
supporting their loved ones and emphasize that normalization is a concept that can
incorporate helping asymptomatic survivors to:
•
View other people’s (and their own possible future) stress reactions as normal,
common, and expectable responses to trauma
•
Recognize that sometimes peoples’ inadequate attempts to cope with their
reactions are also within the range of “normal” for the strange situation
•
See that it is natural for them to wonder how they are doing and to be surprised
or upset by the intensity, duration, or uncontrollability of their reactions.
The evidence base for the utility of normalization is weak. Few studies have
attempted to assess the degree of normalization of survivor attitudes and establish a
relationship with PTSD and other outcomes. Also unstudied is whether reassurance of
normality and likely recovery, provided by co-survivor peers or helpers, actually
serves to promote normalization. Nonetheless, the concept of normalization is
consistent with theories of the development and maintenance of PTSD and with
research showing a relationship between negative reactions to symptoms and PTSD
(Steil & Ehlers, 2000).
Recent literature in the area of trauma has highlighted the potential for interventions
to exacerbate trauma reactions. Asymptomatic survivors should not be offered
services that extend beyond delivery of Psychological First Aid and education.
Psychotherapy intervention may actually cause harm in persons not experiencing
symptoms of acute stress (Roberts, Kitchiner et al., 2009b). The general rule of “do
no harm” should apply not only to professionals but volunteers alike.
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EVIDENCE
Recommendation
Sources
LE
QE
SR
Providing pre- and post-trauma
Working Group Consensus
III
Poor
I
education can help individuals
understand and cope with exposure
experiences.
2 Routine single, or multiple,
Roberts, Kitchiner et al., 2009b I
Good
D
psychological interventions for
asymptomatic trauma survivors are
NOT effective and may be harmful
Psychological debriefings are not
See module I-1: Early
effective
Interventions
LE =Level of Evidence; QE = Quality of Evidence; SR = Strength of Recommendation (see Appendix A)
1
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MODULE A: ACUTE STRESS REACTION (ASR)
and
PREVENTION OF POST-TRAUMATIC STRESS DISORDER (PTSD)
Although acute stress reaction (ASR) is not defined in the DSM-IV, there has long
been recognition among mental health professionals that individuals who experience
a traumatic event react in certain predictable ways. A key point in the World Health
Organization definition (WHO, 1992) of ASR is the assertion that “the symptoms
usually appear within minutes of the impact of the stressful stimulus or event and
disappear within 2-3 days (often within hours).” This view is echoed in a Guideline
for Evidence-Based Early Psychological Intervention for Victims/Survivors of Mass
Violence, released in 2002 by a collaborative group of Federal Departments and the
American Red Cross: “a sensible working principle in the immediate post-incident
phase is to expect normal recovery” (NIMH, 2002).
Screening and needs assessments for individuals, groups, and populations are
important for the provision of informed early intervention following a major incident
or traumatic event. Initial reactions following trauma are varied, complex, and
unstable.
The authors of this guideline have formulated the recommendations discussed below
for the management of persons with acute stress reaction (ASR) following a
traumatic event. Most of the recommendations in this module are based on group
consensus. When available, the evidence and supporting research are presented in
evidence tables.
The approach to triage in the immediate response to traumatic exposure for service
members with symptoms during Ongoing Military Operations may vary from the
management of civilians exposed to traumatic events. Combat and Operational
Stress Reaction (COSR) management is targeted to preserve the fighting force and
return the service member (SM) to functional status. The annotations for this Module
include, when appropriate, specific recommendations addressing the service
members with COSR.
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MODULE A: ALGORITHM
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MODULE A: ANNOTATIONS
1. ASSESSMENT & TRIAGE
A. Trauma Exposure (within the past 30 days)
Acute Stress Reaction (ASR) is a transient condition that often develops in response
to a traumatic event. Traumatic events are events that cause a person to fear that
he/she may die or be seriously injured or harmed. These events also can be traumatic
when the person witnesses them happening to others. Such events often create feelings
of intense fear, helplessness, or horror for those who experience them. The traumatic
events that can lead to an acute stress reaction are of similar severity to those involved
in post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
Combat or Operational Stress Reaction (COSR) is an acute stress reaction of service
members during Ongoing Military Operations. COSR specifically refers to a reaction to
high-stress events and potentially traumatic event exposure. This reaction is not
attributed to an identified medical/surgical condition that requires other urgent
treatment (a service member can have COSR concurrent with minor wounds/illnesses).
Among the common types of traumatic events are:
•
Combat in a war zone
•
Ongoing military operations
•
Rape, sexual, or other physical assault
•
Natural disaster (e.g., hurricanes, floods, or fires)
•
Child physical and/or sexual abuse
•
Domestic violence (battering)
•
Motor vehicle accidents (MVAs)
•
Exposure to the sudden or unexpected death of others
•
Sudden life-threatening physical illness (e.g., heart attack or cancer)
•
Continuous or reoccurring exposure to traumatic event(s).
Events specific to COSR:
•
Intense emotional demands (e.g., rescue personnel and caregivers searching for
possibly dying survivors or interacting with bereaved family members)
•
Extreme fatigue, weather exposure, hunger, sleep deprivation
•
Extended exposure to danger, loss, emotional/physical strain
•
Exposure to environmental hazards, such as toxic contamination (e.g., gas or
fumes, chemicals, radioactivity)
•
While a COSR can result from a specific traumatic event, it generally emerges
from cumulative exposure to multiple stressors.
Onset of at least some signs and symptoms may be simultaneous with the trauma
itself or may follow the trauma after an interval of hours or days. Symptoms may
include depression, fatigue, anxiety, decreased concentration/memory, irritability,
agitation, and exaggerated startle response.
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B. Assess Briefly Based on General Appearance and Behavior
OBJECTIVE
Identify individuals who may be at risk for endangering themselves or others due to
emotional distress or functional incapacity.
BACKGROUND
The transient symptoms or problems that often develop in response to exposure to
trauma begin within minutes of the traumatic event and disappear within days (even
hours). Symptoms vary greatly but can include a mixture of:
•
Anxiety symptoms (e.g., sweating, increased heart rate, and flushing)
•
An initial state of ‘daze' - narrowing of attention
•
Reduced levels of consciousness - disorientation
•
Agitation or over-activity
•
Depression
•
Withdrawal.
There are a number of possible reactions to a traumatic situation, which are
considered within the "norm" for persons experiencing traumatic stress. These
reactions are considered ‘normal’ in the sense of affecting most survivors, being
socially acceptable, psychologically effective, and self-limited. In the early stage (the
first four days after the trauma exposure), it is important not to classify these
reactions as “symptoms” in the sense of being indicative of a mental disorder.
RECOMMENDATIONS
1. Identification of a patient with ASR symptoms is based on observation of
behavior and function; there is insufficient evidence to recommend a specific
screening tool.
2. Individuals exhibiting the following responses to trauma should be screened for
ASR:
a. Physical: exhaustion, hyperarousal, somatic complaints (GI, GU, MS, CV,
Resp, NS), or symptoms of conversion disorder
b. Emotional: anxiety, depression, guilt/hopelessness
c. Cognitive/mental: amnestic or dissociative symptoms, hypervigilance,
paranoia, intrusive re-experiencing
d. Behavioral: avoidance, problematic substance use.
3. Individuals who experience ASR should receive a comprehensive assessment of
their symptoms to include details about the time of onset, frequency, course,
severity, level of distress, functional impairment, and other relevant information.
4. Assess for capability to perform routine functions.
Assessment specific to COSR:
5. Assess service member’s functional status, to include:
a. Any changes in productivity
b. Co-worker or supervisor reports of recent changes in appearance, quality
of work, or relationships
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c. Any tardiness/unreliability, loss of motivation, or loss of interest
d. Forgetful or easily distracted
e. Screening for substance use.
6. Document symptoms of COSR and obtain collateral information from unit leaders,
coworkers, or peers about stressors, function, medical history, and absence or
impairment in operation or mission.
7. Consider the service member’s role and functional capabilities and the complexity
and importance of his/her job.
DISCUSSION
An acute stress reaction (ASR/COSR) may appear concurrent with other wounds or
illnesses. Providers should confirm that the symptoms are not due to identified
medical/surgical conditions requiring other urgent treatment. ASR may result from a
specific traumatic event or from series of events.
In the aftermath of any extreme stressful event, most of those suffering from acute
traumatic stress reactions will be easy to spot. Those who have been injured will be
obvious. Among the uninjured there will also be many who look stunned, appear pale
and faint, or can be seen to be shaking. Some of those who appear to be suffering
from trauma may not even be the actual victims of the disaster but witnesses or
rescuers who may be deeply affected by what they are seeing. Some may not be
immediately identifiable as traumatized, because they may be highly active - looking
for others or looking after others and organizing help and rescue. A percentage of
these may, in the next days or weeks, develop post-traumatic stress disorder
(PTSD).
Practitioners who are managing service members suffering from stress reactions or
COSR should consider a variety of factors when deciding when a service member is
ready to return to duty including the severity of the condition, the level of
occupational impairment, nature and complexity of the occupation and level of social
support.
C. Unstable, Dangerous to Self or Others, or Need for Urgent Medical Attention
OBJECTIVE
Protect individuals who may be at risk for endangering themselves or others due to
emotional distress or functional incapacity.
BACKGROUND
Emergency treatment, administered to an injured person before professional medical
care is available, can be applied to stress reactions of the mind as well as to physical
injuries of the body. Acute interventions can be envisioned as the mental health
correlate of physical first aid, with the goal being to “stop the psychological
bleeding.” The first, most important measure should be to eliminate (if possible) the
source of the trauma or to remove the victim from the traumatic, stressful
environment. Once the patient is in a safe situation, the provider should attempt to
reassure the patient, encourage a professional healing relationship, encourage a
feeling of safety, and identify existing social supports. Establishing safety and
assurance may enable people to get back on track, and maintain their pre-trauma
stable condition.
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RECOMMENDATIONS
1. Address acute medical/behavioral issues to preserve life and avoid further harm
by:
a. Providing appropriate medical/surgical care or referring to stabilize
b. Evaluating the use of prescribed medications
c. Preventing possible biological or chemical agent exposure
d. Managing substance intoxication or withdrawal
e. Stopping self-injury or mutilation
f.
Addressing inability to care for oneself.
2. Arrange a safe, private, and comfortable environment for continuation of the
evaluation:
a. Assess danger to self or others (e.g., suicidal, or homicidal behavior)
b. Establish a working treatment alliance with the patient
c. Maintain a supportive, non-blaming, non-judgmental stance throughout
the evaluation
d. Assist with the removal of any ongoing exposure to stimuli associated with
the traumatic event
e. Minimize further traumas that may arise from the initial traumatic event
f.
Assess and optimize social supports
g. Secure any weapons and explosives.
3. Legal mandates should be followed:
a. Reporting of violence, assault
b. Confidentiality for the patient
c. Mandatory testing
d. Attending to chain of evidence in criminal cases (e.g., rape, evaluation)
e. Involuntary Commitment procedures if needed.
4. Carefully consider the following potential interventions to secure safety:
a. Find safe accommodation and protect against further trauma
b. Voluntary admission if suicidal
c. Restraint/seclusion only if less restrictive measures are ineffective
d. Provide medications managing specific symptoms as needed (e.g., sleep,
pain).
5. Educate and “normalize” observed psychological reactions to the chain of
command.
6. Evacuate to next level of care if unmanageable, if existing resources are
unavailable, or if reaction is outside of the scope of expertise of the care
provider.
DISCUSSION
Foa et al. (2000) rank “suicidality” among factors that will affect treatment decisions
for PTSD. This factor must also be considered in the immediate post-trauma period:
“self-destructive and impulsive behaviors, while not part of the core PTSD symptom
complex, are recognized as associated features of this disorder that may profoundly
affect clinical management. Therefore, the routine assessment of all patients
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presenting with acute stress symptoms after exposure to a traumatic stressor should
include a careful evaluation of current suicidal ideation and past history of suicidal
attempts. Risk factors for suicide should also be assessed, such as current
depression and substance abuse. If significant suicidality is present, it must be
addressed before any other treatment is initiated.” Likewise, the patient must be
assessed for any signs of violence toward others, or threat of violence in the home
environment (e.g., ongoing battering), and any risk of violence should be an
indication for immediate treatment.
While there is little research on these issues for acute stress reaction per se, the
literature suggests some general trends for persons with PTSD that may inform
clinical management of ASR. For example, individuals with sub-threshold PTSD are at
high risk for suicidal ideation (Marshall et al., 2001) and, for women, suicide
attempts (Breslau, 2001; Ferrada-Noli et al., 1998; Kaslow et al., 2000; Prigerson et
al., 1999). For young adults, aggressive symptoms may be predictive of suicidality in
men and elevated symptoms of PTSD and/or depression may be more predictive in
women (Prigerson et al., 1999). Some individuals with stress reactions could be at
risk for violence toward others. This can be manifested through explosivity and anger
problems and may predict risk for violent behavior.
Optimizing existing social supports is helpful in settings of acute stress and may
decrease risk of suicidality in PTSD (Kotler et al., 2001).
For extended discussion of dangerousness to self or others, see Module B:
Annotation C – Assessment of Dangerousness.
D. Ensure Basic Physical Needs Are Met
OBJECTIVE
Ensure that trauma-exposed persons with acute stress symptoms have their basic
needs met.
BACKGROUND
Trauma victims often have significant disruption to their routines for sleep, nutrition,
exercise, access to finances, and healthcare. Their normal shelter, clothing, and
other basic resources may be destroyed or inaccessible. These disruptions can be
additionally traumatizing.
Early interventions should typically seek to address the needs of the individual
person, with the aim of promoting normal recovery, resiliency, and personal growth
and avoiding additional harm (see Table A-1 Early Interventions.).
Individual persons who were exposed to trauma as members of a group/unit that
existed prior to the trauma event (e.g., police units, firefighters, or military units),
may also benefit from interventions addressing the collective outcomes such as
social order and community or unit cohesion. Some of the acute interventions, such
as psychoeducation, may be provided in a group format to maintain unit integrity
and promote continuity with established relationships.
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Table A - 1 Early Intervention after Exposure to Trauma (<4 days after exposure)
Balance of Benefit and Harm
SR
I
Significant
Benefit
--
D
Some Benefit
Psychological First Aid
Psychoeducation and
normalization
Social support
No Benefit
Potential Harm
--
Unknown Benefit
Spiritual support
Psychological debriefing
SR = Strength of recommendation (see Appendix A)
RECOMMENDATIONS
1. Acute intervention should ensure that the following needs are met:
a.
Safety/security/survival
b.
Food, hydration, clothing, hygiene, and shelter
c.
Sleep
d.
Medications (i.e., replace medications destroyed/lost)
e.
Education as to current status
f.
Communication with family, friends, and community
g.
Protection from ongoing threats/toxins/harm. If indicated, reduce use
of alcohol, tobacco, caffeine, and illicit psychoactive substances.
2. Provide Psychological First Aid to:
a. Protect survivors from further harm
b.
Reduce physiological arousal
c.
Mobilize support for those who are most distressed
d.
Keep families together and facilitate reunion with loved ones
e.
Provide information and foster communication and education
f.
Use effective risk communication techniques.
Interventions Specific for Members of Pre-existing Group (e.g., COSR):
3. Treat according to member’s prior role and not as a “patient.”
4. Assure or provide the following, as needed:
a.
Reunion or ongoing contact with group/unit
b.
Promote continuity with established relationships (e.g., primary group)
c.
Respite from intense stress
d.
Comfortable environment (e.g., thermal comfort)
e.
Consider psychoeducation and discussion in a group format
f.
Assign job tasks and recreational activities that will restore focus and
confidence and reinforce teamwork (limited duty).
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DISCUSSION
Psychological first aid should be envisioned as the mental health correlate of physical
first aid, with the goal being to “stop the bleeding.” The patient should be removed
from the traumatic situation. When the patient is in a safe situation, the clinician
should attempt to reassure the patient and encourage a feeling of safety.
In their Disaster Mental Health Response Handbook (Raphael, 2000), a group of
PTSD experts propose three stages of care:
Protect:
Find ways to protect survivors from further harm and from further exposure to
traumatic stimuli. If possible, create a "shelter" or safe haven for them, even if it
is symbolic. The fewer traumatic stimuli people see, hear, smell, taste, or feel,
the better off they will be.
Direct:
Kind and firm direction is needed and appreciated. Survivors may be stunned, in
shock, or experiencing some degree of dissociation. When possible, direct
ambulatory survivors:
o
Away from the site of destruction
o
Away from severely injured survivors
o
Away from continuing danger.
Connect:
Survivors who are encountered will usually have lost connection to the world that
was familiar to them. A supportive, compassionate, and nonjudgmental verbal or
nonverbal exchange between you and survivors may help to give the experience
of connection to the shared societal values of altruism and goodness. Help
survivors connect:
o
To loved ones
o
To accurate information and appropriate resources
o
To locations where they will be able to receive additional support
o
To unit comrades and mission, fostering vertical and horizontal cohesion.
Triage:
A majority of survivors experience normal stress reactions. However, some may
require immediate crisis intervention to help manage intense feelings of panic or
grief. Signs of panic are trembling, agitation, rambling speech, and erratic
behavior. Signs of intense grief may be loud wailing, rage, or catatonia. In such
cases, attempt to quickly establish therapeutic rapport, ensure the survivor's
safety, acknowledge and validate the survivor's experience, and offer empathy.
Medication may be appropriate and necessary, if available.
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Psychological First Aid: (See Table A-2)
Psychological first aid was coined in Raphael’s book, ‘When Disaster Strikes: How
Individual and Communities Cope with Catastrophe’ (1986). It is included as part of
the Fundamental Criteria for First Aid knowledge and skills that soldiers should be
trained in order to save themselves or other soldiers in casualty situations.
Table A - 2 Key Elements of Psychological First Aid (PFA)
1. Contact and Engagement - Respond to contacts initiated by affected
persons, or initiate contacts in a non-intrusive, compassionate, and
helpful manner
2. Safety and Comfort - Enhance immediate and ongoing safety, and
provide physical and emotional comfort
3. Stabilization (if needed) - Calm and orient emotionally overwhelmed
or distraught survivors
4. Information Gathering - Current Needs and Concerns - Identify
immediate needs and concerns, gather additional information, and
tailor PFA interventions
5. Practical Assistance - Offer practical help to the survivor in addressing
immediate needs and concerns
6. Connection with Social Supports - Help establish opportunities for
brief or ongoing contacts with primary support persons or other
sources of support, including family members, friends, and
community helping resources
7. Information on Coping - Provide information (about stress reactions
and coping) to reduce distress and promote adaptive functioning
8. Linkage to Collaborative Services - Link survivors with needed
services and inform them about available services that may be
needed in the future.
These core goals of PFA constitute the basic objectives of providing early
assistance (e.g., within days or weeks following an event). The amount of
time spent on each goal will vary from person to person and with different
circumstances, according to need.
The complete document describing PFA components can be found at:
http://www.vdh.state.va.us/EPR/pdf/PFA9-6-05Final.pdf
The FM 21-11 First Aid for Soldiers document (1991) states:
(www.medtrng.com/Fm21_11/fm211_8.htm )
“The psychological first aid is most needed at the first sign that a soldier can not
perform the mission because of emotional distress. Stress is inevitable in combat,
in hostage and terrorist situations, and in civilian disasters, such as floods,
hurricanes, tornadoes, and industrial and aircraft catastrophes. Most emotional
reactions to such situations are temporary, and the person can still carry on with
encouragement. Painful or disruptive symptoms may last for minutes, hours, or a
few days. However, if the stress symptoms are seriously disabling, they may be
psychologically contagious and endanger not only the emotionally upset
individual but also the entire unit. In such situations, you may be working beside
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someone who cannot handle the impact of disaster. Even when there is no
immediate danger of physical injury, psychological harm may occur.”
“Psychological first aid really means assisting people with emotional distress
whether it results from physical injury, disease, or excessive traumatic stress.
Emotional distress is not always as visible as a wound, a broken leg, or a reaction
to pain from physical damage. However, overexcitement, severe fear, excessive
worry, deep depression, misdirected aggression, or irritability and anger are signs
that stress has reached the point of interfering with effective coping.”
“Psychological first aid should go hand in hand with physical first aid. The
discovery of a physical injury or cause for an inability to function does not rule
out the possibility of a psychological injury (or vice versa). A physical injury and
the circumstances surrounding it may actually cause an emotional injury that is
potentially more serious than the physical injury; both injuries need treatment.
The person suffering from pain, shock, fear of serious damage to his body, or
fear of death does not respond well to joking, indifference, or fearful-tearful
attention. Fear and anxiety may take as high a toll on the soldier's strength as
does the loss of blood.” (The Department of the Army; Washington, DC, 4
December 1991)
Specific Interventions for COSR:
Combat Operation Stress Control (COSC) utilizes the management principles of
brevity, immediacy, contact, expectancy, proximity, and simplicity (BICEPS). These
principles apply to all COSC interventions or activities throughout the theater, and
are followed by COSC personnel in all BH/COSC elements. These principles may be
applied differently based on a particular level of care and other factors pertaining to
mission, enemy, terrain and weather, troops and support available, time available,
and civil considerations (METT-TC).
The actions used for COSC (commonly referred to as the 6 Rs) involve the following
actions:
Reassure of normality (normalize the reaction)
Rest (respite from combat or break from work)
Replenish bodily needs (such as thermal comfort, water, food, hygiene, and
sleep).
Restore confidence with purposeful activities and talk
Retain contact with fellow soldiers and unit
Remind / Recognize emotion of reaction (specifically potentially life-threatening
thoughts and behaviors).
For additional information see COSR protocols for DoD specific services.
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E. Person has Trauma-Related Symptoms, Significant Impaired Function, or Diagnosis of ASD
Identify patients who have excessive post-traumatic stress symptoms or significant
distress impaired function, or are diagnosed with ASD.
BACKGROUND
Since people who develop ASD are at greater risk of developing PTSD, they should
be identified and offered treatment as soon as possible. Although ASD does not occur
in all people who later develop PTSD, treatment should be considered for all acutely
traumatized people with ASD, those with severe PTSD symptoms but do not meet
ASD diagnostic criteria, and those with functional impairment because of acute
physiological symptoms (e.g., hyperarousal).
Some patients with an acute stress reaction may benefit from augmentation of the
acute intervention and additional follow-up. Because people vary in their reaction
and in the rate that they recover from traumatic stress, some individuals may
require more time or an adjustment of the treatment prior to improvement. Some
want and feel a need to discuss the event, and some have no such need. Respect
individual and cultural preferences in the attempt to meet their needs as much as
possible. Allow for normal recovery and monitor.
RECOMMENDATIONS
1. Acutely traumatized people, who meet the criteria for diagnosis of ASD, and
those with significant levels of post-trauma symptoms after at least two weeks
post-trauma, as well as those who are incapacitated by acute psychological or
physical symptoms, should receive further assessment and early intervention to
prevent PTSD.
2. Trauma survivors, who present with symptoms that do not meet the diagnostic
threshold for ASD, or those who have recovered from the trauma and currently
show no symptoms, should be monitored and may benefit from follow-up and
provision of ongoing counseling or symptomatic treatment.
3. Service members with COSR who do not respond to initial supportive
interventions may warrant referral or evacuation.
DISCUSSION
Stress reactions produce biological, psychological, and behavioral changes. Biological
alterations include disruptions in neurochemicals, sleep patterns, hyperarousal, and
somatic symptoms (e.g., pain, gastrointestinal symptoms). Psychological changes
include: mood disturbances (e.g., emotional lability, irritability, blunting, numbing),
anxiety (e.g., increased worry, ruminations), and cognitive disturbances (e.g.,
memory impairment, confusion, and impaired task completion).
Not all individuals who are exposed to trauma or who have a COSR require a mental
health referral. However, those service members who are deteriorating or who are
not responding to acute supportive interventions need to be identified and evacuated
to a more definitive level of care. Also, patients who have a high potential for
dangerousness or the development of symptoms suggestive of a stress-related
disorder (e.g., ASD) also need to be identified and referred to a facility that can
provide appropriate mental healthcare.
Patients who do not respond to first-line supportive interventions may warrant
treatment augmentation or a mental health referral. Clear indications for a mental
health referral include: a worsening of stress-related symptoms, new onset of
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dangerousness or maladaptive coping to stress, exacerbation of co-morbid
psychiatric conditions, or deterioration in function. Because patients with new onset
stressors, poor social supports, or inadequate coping skills may be at heightened risk
to develop PTSD, a mental health referral is also indicated.
Acute Stress Disorder (ASD)
Different types of trauma can lead to ASD, from interpersonal assaultive violence to
accidents to combat related trauma. As many as ninety percent of individuals, who
experience sexual assault, will have acute stress symptoms but not ASD (Breslau,
1998). Additionally, surveys from the OIF/OEF combat theaters indicate that about
10 to 18 percent of deployed US combat forces experience trauma-related stress
symptoms (as measured with PCL cutoff score of 50+).
Prior to DSM-IV (American Psychiatric Association, 1994), severe distress occurring
in the month after a traumatic event was not regarded as a diagnosable clinical
problem. Although this prevented the pathologizing of transient reactions, it
hampered the identification of more severely traumatized individuals who might have
benefited from early interventions. To address this issue, DSM-IV introduced the
diagnosis of acute stress disorder (ASD) to describe those acute reactions associated
with an increased likelihood of developing chronic PTSD (see Table A - 3). A
diagnosis of ASD is given when an individual experiences significantly distressing
symptoms of re-experiencing, avoidance, and increased arousal within 4 weeks of
the trauma. These symptoms must be present for at least two days before the
diagnosis of ASD can be made. The DSM-IV diagnosis of ASD requires that the victim
report at least three of the following five symptoms labeled as indicators of
dissociation: numbing, reduced awareness of surroundings, derealization,
depersonalization, and dissociative amnesia. These requirements are based on
evidence found in previous studies that dissociative symptoms at the time of (or
shortly after) the traumatic event are predictive of the subsequent development of
chronic PTSD (Bremner et al., 1992; Marmar et al., 1994; Koopman et al., 1994).
Thus, the fundamental differences between PTSD and ASD involve time elapsed since
the trauma and the relative emphasis on dissociative symptoms in the ASD
diagnosis.
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Table A - 3 Diagnostic criteria for 308.3 Acute Stress Disorder (DSM-IV)
A. The person has been exposed to a traumatic event in which both of the following
were present:
•
the person experienced, witnessed, or was confronted with an event or events
that involved actual or threatened death or serious injury, or a threat to the
physical integrity of self or others
•
the person's response involved intense fear, helplessness, or horror
B. Either while experiencing or after experiencing the distressing event, the individual
has three (or more) of the following dissociative symptoms:
•
a subjective sense of numbing, detachment, or absence of emotional
responsiveness
•
a reduction in awareness of his or her surroundings (e.g., "being in a daze")
•
derealization
•
depersonalization
•
dissociative amnesia (i.e., inability to recall an important aspect of the trauma)
C. The traumatic event is persistently re-experienced in at least one of the following
ways: recurrent images, thoughts, dreams, illusions, flashback episodes, or a sense
of reliving the experience; or distress on exposure to reminders of the traumatic
event.
D. Marked avoidance of stimuli that arouse recollections of the trauma (e.g., thoughts,
feelings, conversations, activities, places, and people).
E. Marked symptoms of anxiety or increased arousal (e.g., difficulty sleeping,
irritability, poor concentration, hypervigilance, exaggerated startle response, motor
restlessness).
F. The disturbance causes clinically significant distress or impairment in social,
occupational, or other important areas of functioning or impairs the individual's
ability to pursue some necessary task, such as obtaining necessary assistance or
mobilizing personal resources by telling family members about the traumatic
experience.
G. The disturbance lasts for a minimum of 2 days and a maximum of 4 weeks and
occurs within 4 weeks of the traumatic event.
H. The disturbance is not due to the direct physiological effects of a substance (e.g., a
drug of abuse, a medication) or a general medical condition, is not better accounted
for by Brief Psychotic Disorder, and is not merely an exacerbation of a pre-existing
Axis I or Axis II disorder.
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Assess Medical and Functional Status
OBJECTIVE
Obtain complete history, physical examination, relevant laboratory tests, and
assessment of functioning to determine course of treatment.
BACKGROUND
One of the key goals of ASR supportive care is to address immediate physical health
problems and to assist the individual in beginning to return to a normal level of
function. In order t o d o t his, t he clinician o r caregiver must a ssess the in dividual’s
current state of health and functioning.
RECOMMENDATIONS
1. Medical status should be obtained for all persons presenting with symptoms to
include:
a.
History, physical examination, and a neurological examination
b.
Use of prescribed medications, mood or mind-altering substances, and
possible biological or chemical agent exposure
c.
A mini-mental status examination (MMSE) to assess cognitive function
if indicated.
2. The history and physical examination findings should lead the provider to other
assessments as clinically indicated. Based on the clinical presentation,
assessment may include:
a.
Screen for toxicology if the symptom presentation indicates
b.
Radiological assessment of patients with focal neurological findings or
possible head injury
c.
Appropriate laboratory studies to rule out medical disorders that may
cause symptoms of acute stress reactions (e.g., complete blood count
[CBC], chemistry profile, thyroid studies, HCG, EKG, EEG).
3. A focused psychosocial assessment should be performed to include assessment of
active stressors, losses, current social supports, and basic needs (e.g., housing,
food, and financial resources).
4. A brief assessment of function should be completed to evaluate: 1) objectively
impaired function based on general appearance and behavior; 2) subjectively
impaired function; 3) baseline level of function (LOF) vs. current LOF; and 4)
family and relationship functioning.
DISCUSSION
Whenever possible, providers should include assessment of any physical injuries,
review of targeted H&P and laboratory results (if available), assessment of the
individual’s level of functioning, and level of family and relationship functioning.
Ideally, the current clinical picture should be compared to the individual’s pre-trauma
state, but often this may not be possible in the immediate aftermath of a traumatic
event. Evaluation of the patient’s level of function is warranted, because evidence
has shown that functional impairment after trauma is a predictor for later
development of PTSD (Norris et al., 2002).
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G. Assess Pre-Existing Psychiatric and Medical Conditions
OBJECTIVE
Identify patients at risk for complications.
BACKGROUND
Circumstances brought about by a traumatic event may complicate any existing
psychiatric conditions or may exacerbate pre-existing pathology.
RECOMMENDATIONS
1. Assess patients for pre-existing psychiatric conditions to identify high-risk
individuals and groups.
2. Assure access and adherence to medications that the patient is currently taking.
3. Refer patients with pre-existing psychiatric conditions to mental health specialty
when indicated or emergency hospitalization if needed.
DISCUSSION
The NIMH (2002) guideline addresses the need to manage pre-existing psychiatric
and medical conditions. The authors point to the “special needs of those who have
experienced enduring mental health problems, those who are disabled, and other
high-risk groups who may be vulnerable and less able to cope with unfolding
situations.” They also call for additional attention to be paid to members of these
groups in the immediate post-trauma period. However, they also emphasize that
“the presumption of clinically significant disorders in the early post-incident phase is
inappropriate, except for individuals with preexisting conditions.”
H
Assess Risk Factors for Developing ASD/PTSD
BACKGROUND
Not all trauma survivors develop permanent stress disorders. Early identification of
those at-risk for negative outcomes following trauma can facilitate prevention,
referral, and treatment. Screening for those at greatest risk should address past and
current psychiatric and substance use problems and treatment, prior trauma
exposure, pre-injury psychosocial stressors, and existing social support.
RECOMMENDATIONS
1. Trauma survivors who exhibit symptoms or functional impairment should be
screened for the following risk factors for developing ASD/PTSD:
Pre-traumatic factors
1. Ongoing life stress
2. Lack of social support
3. Young age at time of trauma
4. Pre-existing psychiatric disorders, or substance misuse
5. History of traumatic events (e.g., MVA)
6. History of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
7. Other pre-traumatic factors, including: female gender, low socioeconomic
status, lower level of education, lower level of intelligence, race (Hispanic,
African-American, American Indian, and Pacific Islander), reported abuse in
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childhood, report of other previous traumatization, report of other adverse
childhood factors, family history of psychiatric disorders, and poor training or
preparation for the traumatic event.
Peri-traumatic or trauma-related factors
1. Severe trauma
2. Physical injury to self or others
3. Type of trauma (combat, interpersonal traumas such as killing another
person, torture, rape, or assault convey high risk of PTSD)
4. High perceived threat to life of self or others
5. Community (mass) trauma
6. Other peri-traumatic factors, including: history of peri-traumatic dissociation.
Post-traumatic factors
1. Ongoing life stress
2. Lack of positive social support
3. Bereavement or traumatic grief
4. Major loss of resources
5. Negative social support (shaming or blaming environment)
6. Poor coping skills
7. Other post-traumatic factors, including: children at home and a distressed
spouse.
DISCUSSION
Risk Factors for ASD
When evaluating risk factors for ASD, the clinician should keep in mind that ASD is
no longer diagnosed later than four weeks after a traumatic event. Thus, not enough
time will have passed following the trauma for many post-trauma factors to have had
their full impact on the course of symptoms.
Risk Factors for PTSD
When evaluating risk factors for developing PTSD, the clinician should keep in mind
that PTSD is defined as occurring only after four weeks have elapsed following a
traumatic event. PTSD symptoms, however, may not appear until a considerable
time has passed, sometimes surfacing years later.
For further discussion of risk factors for PTSD - See Module B: Annotation F
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2. TREATMENT
I.
Provide Education and Normalization / Expectancy of Recovery
OBJECTIVE
Help trauma survivors cope with ASR/COSR by providing information that may help
them manage their symptoms and benefit from treatment.
BACKGROUND
Education for trauma survivors and their families may help normalize common
reactions to trauma, improve coping, enhance self-care, facilitate recognition of
significant problems and increase knowledge of, and access to, services. Individuals
should be reassured about common reactions to traumatic experiences and be
advised regarding positive and problematic forms of coping with them.
Information about social support and stress management is particularly important.
Opportunities to discuss emotional concerns in individual, family, or group meetings
can enable survivors to reflect on what has happened. Education regarding indicators
that initial acute reactions are failing to resolve will be important. Signs and
symptoms of PTSD, anxiety, depression, substance use disorders, and other
difficulties should be explained. Survivors will need information about financial,
mental health, rehabilitation, legal, and other services available to them, as well as
education about common obstacles to pursuing needed services.
RECOMMENDATION:
1. All survivors should be given educational information to help normalize common
reactions to trauma, improve coping, enhance self-care, facilitate recognition of
significant problems, and increase knowledge of and access to services. Such
information can be delivered in many ways, including public media, community
education activities, and written materials.
DISCUSSION:
Immediate post-trauma distress will remit naturally for many patients (Blanchard et
al., 1995), and provision of mental health services may be unnecessary.
Hypothetically, it is even possible that too much focus on mental health issues may
be iatrogenic for some survivors, centering their attention on symptoms and
problems and making attention and caring contingent on needing such help.
J.
Initiate Brief Intervention
OBJECTIVE
To lessen the physical, psychological, and behavioral morbidity associated with acute
stress reaction (ASR), hasten the return to full function (duty), and reduce the risk
for development of ASD or PTSD following a traumatic event.
BACKGROUND
It is likely that not all patients will require intervention immediately following a
traumatic occurrence. Depending on the intensity and duration of the trauma, there
will be people who will make it through unharmed. Often, if a person appears to be
coping well and denies symptoms of ASD or PTSD, specialized care may not be
needed.
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For people who show symptoms of ASD or PTSD (including symptoms of intrusive
recollections, avoidance, numbing, and physiological hyperarousal when confronted
with reminders of the trauma), brief acute intervention may be indicated.
Early interventions may need to assist the individuals with anticipating problems in
using their support system. This may be particularly important in light of the fact
that the psychological aftermath of trauma may significantly disrupt a person’s
capacity to use others to cope with and manage post-traumatic symptoms and daily
demands. Table A-4 summarizes the interventions and their potential benefit in the
first month after exposure to the trauma.
Table A-4 Early Interventions after Exposure to Trauma (4 to 30 days after exposure)
Balance of Benefit and Harm
SR
A
B
Significant
Benefit
Some Benefit
Unknown Benefit
No Benefit
- Brief Cognitive
Behavioral
Therapy
(4-5 sessions)
C
D
I
- Social support
- Psychoeducation
- Imipramine
and normalization - Propranolol
- Prazosin
- Other Antidepressants
- Anticonvulsants
- Atypical Antipsychotics
- Individual psychological
debriefing 
- Formal psychotherapy for
asymptomatic survivors 
- Benzodiazepines 
- Typical Antipsychotics 
- Group psychological
debriefing
- Spiritual support
- Psychological First Aid
= Potential harm; SR = Strength of recommendation (see Appendix A)
RECOMMENDATIONS
The following treatment recommendations should apply for all acutely traumatized
people who meet the criteria for diagnosis of ASD, and for those with significant
levels of acute stress symptoms that last for more than two weeks post-trauma, as
well as those who are incapacitated by acute psychological or physical symptoms.
1. Continue providing psychoeducation and normalization.
2. Treatment should be initiated after education, normalization, and Psychological
First Aid has been provided and after basic needs following the trauma have been
made available.
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3. There is insufficient evidence to recommend for or against the use of
Psychological First Aid to address symptoms beyond 4 days following trauma. [I]
4. Survivors who present symptoms that do not meet the diagnostic threshold of
ASD or PTSD should be monitored and may benefit from follow-up and provision
of ongoing counseling or symptomatic treatment.
5. Recommend monitoring for development of PTSD using validated symptom
measures (e.g., PTSD Checklist, other screening tools for ASD/PTSD).
6. Psychotherapy:
a. Consider early brief intervention (4 to 5 sessions) of cognitive-based
therapy (CBT) that includes exposure-based therapy, alone or combined
with a component of cognitive re-structuring therapy for patients with
significant early symptom levels, especially those meeting diagnostic
criteria for ASD. [A]
b. Routine formal psychotherapy intervention for asymptomatic individuals is
not beneficial and may be harmful. [D]
c. Strongly recommend against individual Psychological Debriefing as a
viable means of reducing acute stress disorder (ASD) or progression to
post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). [D]
d. The evidence does not support a single session group Psychological
Debriefing as a viable means of reducing acute stress disorder (ASD) or
progression to post-traumatic stress disorder, but there is no evidence of
harm (Note: this is not a recommendation pertaining to Operational
Debriefing). [D]
e. Groups may be effective vehicles for providing trauma-related education,
training in coping skills, and increasing social support, especially in the
context of multiple group sessions. [I]
f.
Group participation should be voluntary.
7. Pharmacotherapy:
a. There is no evidence to support a recommendation for use of a
pharmacological agent to prevent the development of ASD or PTSD. [I]
b. Strongly recommend against the use of benzodiazepines to prevent the
development of ASD or PTSD [D]
For discussion of the supporting evidence and grading of the recommendations, see
Module I-1: Early Interventions to Prevention of PTSD
DISCUSSION
ASD Treatment
The relationship between ASD and PTSD was examined in three prospective studies.
Classen and colleagues (1998) studied the acute stress reactions of bystanders to a
mass shooting in an office building. They assessed 36 employees (bystanders) 8
days after the shooting. Between 7 and 10 months later, they reassessed 32
employees for post-traumatic stress symptoms and found that 33 percent of them
met criteria for ASD and that meeting criteria for ASD was a strong predictor of PTSD
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(accounting for 19 percent of the variance), as well as intrusion (accounting for 53
percent of the variance) and avoidance (accounting for 45 percent of the variance).
In another prospective study, Harvey and Bryant (1998) examined the relationship
between ASD and PTSD in 92 motor vehicle accident survivors. From the twelve
participants (13 percent) who met criteria for ASD within 2 to 26 days of the
accident, 78 percent met criteria for PTSD 6 months later. Nineteen participants (21
percent) met some but not all of the criteria for ASD; of the 15 individuals available
for follow-up, 9 (60 percent) met criteria for PTSD. From the 61 participants who did
not meet the criteria for ASD; only 2 met criteria for PTSD. This study provides
strong evidence of ASD being a predictor of PTSD. Nevertheless, Harvey and Bryant
concluded that the current criteria for ASD might be too stringent for ASD to be used
to predict the risk for PTSD. Harvey and Bryant (1998a) also examined the
relationship between ASD and PTSD for a subset (n=79) of the motor vehicle
accident survivors who suffered mild traumatic brain injury as a result of the
accident. They were particularly interested in the utility of ASD as a predictor of
PTSD in individuals with post-concussive symptoms that could overlap with ASD
symptoms. Their results were similar to previously reported findings: 14 percent met
criteria for ASD; six months after the event, 82 percent of those with ASD also met
criteria for PTSD.
In another prospective study, Brewin and colleagues (1999) evaluated the use of
ASD to predict PTSD in 157 survivors of violent assault. Participants were assessed
for several ASD symptoms using items from the Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder
Symptoms Scale; additional items were generated to determine whether the event
met the ASD criterion. Nineteen percent of participants met criteria for ASD, and 20
percent met criteria for PTSD at 6-month follow-up. They found that meeting full
criteria for ASD was a better predictor of PTSD than any of the symptom clusters.
Eighty three percent of participants who met criteria for ASD were diagnosed with
PTSD six months later.
Research suggests that relatively brief but specialized interventions may effectively
prevent PTSD in some subgroups of trauma patients. Several controlled trials have
suggested that brief (i.e., 4 to 5 sessions) cognitive-behavioral treatments,
comprised of education, breathing training/relaxation, imaginal and in vivo exposure,
and cognitive restructuring, delivered within weeks of the traumatic event, can often
prevent PTSD in survivors of sexual and non-sexual assault (Foa et al., 1995) and
MVAs and industrial accidents (Bryant et al., 1998 , 1999). Brief intervention with
patients hospitalized for injury has been found to reduce alcohol consumption in
those with existing alcohol problems (Gentilello et al., 1999). Controlled trials of brief
early intervention services targeted at other important trauma sequelae (e.g.,
problems returning to work, depression, family problems, trauma recidivism, and
bereavement-related problems) remain to be conducted, but it is likely that targeted
interventions may be effective in these arenas for at least some survivors.
Two well-designed studies offer evidence that brief treatment interventions utilizing a
combination of cognitive behavioral techniques may be effective in preventing PTSD
in a significant percentage of subjects. In a study of a brief treatment program for
recent sexual and nonsexual assault victims who all met criteria for PTSD, Foa at al.
(1995) compared repeated assessments vs. a Brief Prevention Program (BPP) (four
sessions of trauma education, relaxation training, imaginal exposure, in vivo
exposure, and cognitive restructuring). Two months posttrauma, only 10 percent of
the BPP group met criteria for PTSD, whereas 70 percent of the repeated
assessments group met criteria for PTSD. In a study of motor vehicle and industrial
accident victims who met criteria for ASD, Bryant et al. (1998) compared five
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sessions of nondirective supportive counseling (support, education, and problemsolving skills) vs. a brief cognitive-behavioral treatment (trauma education,
progressive muscle relaxation, imaginal exposure, cognitive restructuring, and
graded in vivo exposure to avoided situations). Immediately post-treatment, 8
percent in the CBT group met criteria for PTSD, versus 83 percent in the supportive
counseling group. Six months post-trauma, 17 percent in the CBT group met criteria
for PTSD versus 67 percent in supportive counseling. One important caveat to these
interventions is that the dropout rate was high, and the authors concluded that those
with more severe symptoms might need supportive counseling prior to more
intensive cognitive behavioral interventions.
In addition to targeted brief interventions, some trauma survivors may benefit from
follow-up provision of ongoing counseling or treatment. Candidates for such
treatment would include survivors with a history of previous traumatization (e.g.,
survivors of the current trauma who have a history of childhood physical or sexual
abuse) or pre-existing mental health problems.
EVIDENCE
Recommendation
Sources
LE
QE
SR
1 Monitor patient with ASD for
Brewin et al., 1999
I
Good
A
development of PTSD (ASD
Bryant et al., 1998, 1999
predictor of PTSD).
2 Brief intervention of CBT (4 to 5
See Module I-1: Brief early CBT
sessions).
LE =Level of Evidence; QE = Quality of Evidence; SR = Strength of Recommendation (see Appendix A)
K. Acute Symptom Management
BACKGROUND
Survivors of trauma may not complain directly of ASD symptoms, such as reexperiencing or avoidance. Instead, they may complain of sleeping problems, pain,
or other somatic concerns. After addressing immediate needs and providing
education and intervention, alleviating these symptoms will make it easier for
survivors to cope and recover from their traumatic experience.
RECOMMENDATIONS
1. Symptom-specific treatment should be provided after education, normalization,
and basic needs are met.
2. Consider a short course of medication (less than 6 days), targeted for specific
symptoms in patients post-trauma
a.
Sleep disturbance/insomnia
b.
Management of pain
c.
Irritation/excessive arousal/anger.
3. Provide non-pharmacological intervention to address specific symptoms (e.g.,
relaxation, breathing techniques, avoiding caffeine) to address both general
recovery and specific symptoms (sleep disturbance, pain, hyperarousal, or
anger).
For discussion of the supporting evidence of the recommendations see Module I-3:
Management of Specific Symptoms
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L1. Facilitate Spiritual Support
BACKGROUND
Religion and spirituality may provide a framework by which many survivors of
trauma construct a meaningful account of their experience and seek solace, and may
provide a useful focus for intervention with trauma survivors. The terms “religious”
and “spiritual” are both used in the clinical literature to refer to a set of beliefs and
practices to which individuals may turn for support following a traumatic event.
RECOMMENDATIONS
1. Ensure patient access to spiritual care when sought.
2. Assess for spiritual needs.
3. Provide opportunities for grieving for losses (providing space and opportunities
for prayers, mantras, rites, and rituals and end-of-life care, as determined
important by the patient).
DISCUSSION
For discussion of the supporting evidence of the recommendations see Module I-2:
D2- Spiritual Support.
L2. Facilitate Social Support
BACKGROUND
PTSD is often associated with withdrawal from participation in social activities,
limited friendships, and reduced emotional intimacy. Some research also suggests
that veterans with PTSD have greater rates of social anxiety disorder. Poor social
support predicts development of PTSD and a more chronic course of the disorder.
Veterans with PTSD who are more involved in the community are more likely to show
remission in PTSD symptoms than those with less community involvement and
adjustment to peacekeeping is significantly related to self-disclosure, especially to
supportive significant others. Overcoming problems in social functioning and
promoting social participation may require active, sustained intervention. When
indicated, improvements in social functioning should be established as a formal
treatment goal. Social support is critical for helping the individual cope after a
trauma has occurred. It may be necessary to identify potential sources of support
and facilitate support from others (e.g., partners, family, friends, work colleagues,
and work supervisors). Survivors can also be taught a range of social skills to
facilitate social participation and support-seeking.
RECOMMENDATIONS
1. Immediately after trauma exposure, preserve an interpersonal safety zone
protecting basic personal space (e.g., privacy, quiet, personal effects).
4. As part of Psychological First Aid, reconnect trauma survivors with previously
supportive relationships (e.g., family, friends, unit members) and link with
additional sources of interpersonal support.
1. Assess for impact of PTSD on social functioning.
5. Facilitate access to social support and provide assistance in improving social
functioning, as indicated.
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DISCUSSION
Optimizing existing social supports is helpful in settings of acute stress and may
decrease risk of suicide in PTSD (Kotler et al., 2001). For example, higher social
support for women who have experienced domestic violence may reduce risk of
PTSD and other mental disorders (Coker et al., 2002).
3. RE-ASSESSMENT
M. Reassess Symptoms and Function
OBJECTIVE
Identify patients with persistent traumatic stress symptoms, related dysfunction, or
additional treatment needs.
BACKGROUND
Clinical reassessment of response to the acute intervention is indicated to determine
if there are persistent symptoms and, if necessary, to develop a follow-up plan.
Especially important are acute levels of traumatic stress symptoms, which predict
chronic problems; for example, more than three-quarters of MVA patients diagnosed
with ASD will have chronic PTSD at 6 months post-trauma.
In follow-up appointments, it will be important to screen for PTSD and other anxiety
disorders, depression, alcohol and substance abuse, problems with return to work
and other productive roles, adherence to medication regimens and other
appointments, and potential for re-traumatization.
RECOMMENDATIONS
1. Assessment of the response to the acute intervention should include an
evaluation for the following risk factors:
a.
Persistent or worsening traumatic stress symptoms (e.g.,
dissociation, panic, autonomic arousal, cognitive impairment)
b.
Significant functional impairments (e.g., role/work, relationships)
c.
Dangerousness (suicidal or violent ideation, plan, and/or intent)
d.
Severe psychiatric co-morbidity (e.g., psychotic spectrum disorder,
substance use disorder or abuse)
e.
Maladaptive coping strategies (e.g., pattern of impulsivity, social
withdrawal, or other reactions under stress)
f.
New or evolving psychosocial stressors
g.
Poor social supports.
2. Follow-up after acute intervention to determine patient status should include the
following:
a.
Patient does not improve or status worsens – continue management
of PTSD (See Module B) in consultation or referral to PTSD specialty
care or mental health provider. Recommend involvement of the
primary care provider in the treatment. Patients with multiple
problems may benefit from a multi-disciplinary approach to include
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occupational therapy, spiritual counseling, recreation therapy, social
work, psychology, and/or psychiatry.
b.
Patient demonstrates partial improvement (e.g., less arousal, but no
improvement in sleep) – consider augmentation or adjustment of the
acute intervention and follow up within 2 weeks.
c.
Patient recovers from acute symptoms – provide education about
acute stress reaction and contact information with instructions for
available follow-up if needed.
DISCUSSION
After initiating an acute intervention, it is crucial for providers to follow-up and
assess for treatment response and for any new or additional risk factors. Studies of
exposed populations show that poor social supports and severe stress after the
trauma may increase the risk of developing PTSD. Persons with stress reactions may
respond with maladaptive coping styles or health risk behaviors; so, an assessment
of coping styles and health risk behaviors is warranted. Those patients who respond
well to acute interventions can then be offered contact information for follow-up
should they later become symptomatic.
4. FOLLOW-UP
N. Persistent (>1 Month) or Worsening Symptoms, Significant Functional Impairment, or High
Risk for Development of PTSD.
OBJECTIVE
Identify patients with PTSD or high risk for developing PTSD who may benefit from
PTSD treatment.
BACKGROUND
A crucial goal of follow-up activities is referral, as necessary, for appropriate mental
health services. In fact, referral, and subsequent delivery of more intensive
interventions, will depend upon adequate implementation of screening. Screening,
whether conducted in formal or informal ways, can best help determine who is in
need of referral. But even if those who might benefit from mental health services are
adequately identified, factors such as embarrassment, fear of stigmatization,
practical barriers (e.g., distance from services), and cultural norms that do not
support help-seeking may all limit motivation to seek help or pursue a referral. Those
making referrals can directly discuss these attitudes about seeking help and attempt
to preempt avoidance of needed services. Motivational interviewing techniques
(Rollnick et al., 1992) may help increase rates of referral acceptance.
RECOMMENDATIONS
1. Individuals who fail to respond to early interventions should be referred for PTSD
treatment when they have:
a.
Worsening of stress-related symptoms
b.
High potential or new-onset potential for dangerousness
c.
Development of ASD/PTSD
d.
Maladaptive coping with stress (e.g., social withdrawal, alcohol use)
e.
Exacerbation of pre-existing psychiatric conditions
f.
Deterioration in function
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g.
New onset stressors
h.
Poor social supports.
2. Primary Care provider should consider initiating therapy pending referral or if the
patient is reluctant or unable to obtain specialty services.
3. Primary Care provider should continue evaluating and treating co-morbid physical
illnesses and addressing any other health concerns, as well as educating and
validating the patient regarding his/her illness.
DISCUSSION
Not all individuals who are exposed to trauma or who have an Acute Stress Reaction
(ASR) following trauma require a mental health referral. However, patients who are
deteriorating or not responding to acute supportive interventions need to be
identified and referred to mental health. Also, those patients who have a high
potential for dangerousness or potential for the development of PTSD also need to be
identified and referred to specialty care.
Some patients with an ASR who show partial improvement may benefit from
augmentation of the acute intervention and additional follow-up. Because people
recover from traumatic stress-related problems at different rates, some individuals
may require more time or an adjustment of the treatment prior to improvement. For
example, early in treatment, medications may be adjusted to target prominent
symptoms.
Patients with partial PTSD exhibit clinically meaningful levels of functional
impairment in association with their symptoms (Stein, 1997). Functional impairment,
rates of co-morbid disorders, and rates of suicidal ideation were shown to increase
linearly with an increasing number of PTSD symptoms, and individuals with subthreshold PTSD had increased suicidal ideation, even after controlling for the
presence of co-morbid major depressive disorder (Marshall, 2001).
Patients who do not respond to first-line interventions may warrant treatment
augmentation or a mental health referral. Clear indications for a mental health
referral include: a worsening of stress-related symptoms, new onset of
dangerousness or maladaptive coping to stress, exacerbation of co-morbid
psychiatric conditions, or deterioration in function. Because patients with new-onset
stressors, poor social supports, or inadequate coping skills may be at heightened risk
to develop PTSD, mental health referral is also indicated.
Primary Care providers who identify patients with possible PTSD should consider
referral to a Mental Health or PTSD clinic. This referral should be made in
consultation with the patient, and with consideration of the patient’s severity of
problems and preferences.
Several treatment modalities can be initiated and monitored in the primary care
setting (e.g., Pharmacotherapy, Supportive Counseling). Therefore, the Primary Care
practitioner should consider initiating therapy pending referral. However, if the
patient is reluctant or unable to obtain specialty services (see Module B), the Primary
Care provider should continue evaluating and treating co-morbid somatic illnesses
and addressing any other health concerns, as well as educating and validating the
patient regarding his/her illness. If patients are referred to specialty care, it is vital
that the Primary Care team (including the Healthcare Integrator) stay actively
involved in coordination with the Specialist in the care of patients with PTSD.
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Additional Points:
o
Don’t suggest or insinuate that physical or cognitive symptoms co-existing
with ASD/PTSD are related to a “stress,” “emotional,” or “psychological”
problem. Educate patients about the physiological dysregulation
associated with PTSD and how this can impact physical and cognitive
functioning
o
Encourage referral to behavioral health specialty care via collaborative
discussion, if indicated
o Primary Care providers should not hesitate to ask questions about
trauma-related symptoms Providers should be aware that narration of
traumatic experiences may be associated with increased distress
temporarily, and allow time to address it.
O. Monitor and Follow-Up
BACKGROUND
Many trauma survivors experience some symptoms in the immediate aftermath of a
traumatic event. In most instances, these symptoms will eventually remit and do not
require long-term follow-up. Those exposed to traumatic events and who manifest
no or few symptoms after a period of time (approximately two months) do not
require routine follow-up, but follow-up should be provided if requested.
RECOMMENDATIONS
1. Follow-up should be offered to individuals who request it or to those at high risk
of developing adjustment difficulties following exposure to major incidents and
disasters, including individuals who:
a.
Have acute stress disorder or other clinically significant symptoms
stemming from the trauma
b.
Are bereaved
c.
Have a pre-existing psychiatric disorder
d.
Require medical or surgical attention
e.
Were exposed to a major incident or disaster that was particularly
intense and of long duration.
2. Primary Care providers should follow-up with patients about issues related to
trauma in an ongoing way. Patients with initial sub-threshold presentation are at
increased risk of developing PTSD and may need symptom-specific management.
DISCUSSION
For many types of trauma, experience indicates that relatively few survivors make
use of available mental health services. This may be due to a lack of awareness of
the availability of such services, low perceived need for them, lack of confidence in
their utility or negative attitudes toward mental healthcare. Therefore, those
planning follow-up and outreach services for survivors must consider how to reach
trauma survivors to educate them about sources of help and market their services to
the intended recipients (Excerpted from Raphael, 2000).
In the chaos of some kinds of traumatic events (e.g., natural disaster), it is
important that workers systematically obtain detailed contact information to facilitate
later follow-up and outreach. In addition, it is important that those providing
outreach and follow-up efforts be opportunistic in accessing settings where survivors
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are congregating. Each contact with the system of formal and informal services
available to survivors affords an opportunity to screen for risk and impairment and
intervene appropriately. Settings providing opportunities for contact with survivors
are diverse (e.g., remembrance ceremonies, self-help group activities, settings
where legal and financial services are delivered, interactions with insurance
companies). For survivors injured or made ill during the traumatic event, follow-up
medical appointments represent opportunities for reassessment, referral, and
treatment.
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MODULE B: ALGORITHM Module B Management of PTSD
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Module B Management of PTSD
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MODULE B: ANNOTATIONS
1. ASSESSMENT
A. Assessment of Stress Related Symptoms
BACKGROUND
Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is the development of characteristic and
persistent symptoms, along with difficulty functioning after exposure to a lifethreatening experience or to an event that either involves a threat to life or serious
injury. Symptoms of PTSD may diminish with the passage of time, or they may
persist for many years. PTSD often occurs together with, or precedes other
psychiatric illnesses. Patients are most likely to present to primary care with
unexplained somatic and/or psychological symptoms (e.g., sleep disturbance, night
sweats, fatigue, and difficulty with memory or concentration). The common
symptoms after exposure to trauma are included in Table B-1.
The symptoms required for the diagnosis of PTSD may be divided into 3 clusters and
should be present for at least 1 month.
•
Intrusion or re-experiencing - memories of the trauma or "flashbacks" that
occur unexpectedly; these may include nightmares, intrusive mental images or
extreme emotional distress, and/or physiological reactivity on exposure to
reminders of the traumatic event.
•
Avoidance - avoiding people, places, thoughts, or activities that bring back
memories of the trauma; this may involve feeling numb or emotionless,
withdrawing from family and friends, or "self-medicating" by abusing alcohol or
other drugs.
•
Hyperarousal - feeling "on guard" or irritable, having sleep problems, having
difficulty concentrating, feeling overly alert and being easily startled, or having
sudden outbursts of anger.
PTSD is frequently under-recognized and therefore often goes untreated. In a
general survey in Israel, 9 percent of patients in a primary care setting were found to
have PTSD. Only 2 percent of the sample was recognized as having the disorder.
Despite this lack of recognition, more than 80 percent of men and 92 percent of
women with PTSD in this survey reported significant distress from the disorder. Even
individuals with "subthreshold" symptoms who do not meet full diagnostic criteria for
the disorder suffer from significant impairments, including increased suicidal
ideation.
In the case that this syndrome originates in war experiences, the presumed cause
presents itself as an exceptional event overcoming the individual's resources. The
notion of war traumatization has been extended to other events, such as
catastrophes, physical attacks, rapes, child and wife battering, and sexual abuse.
However, the events that cause PTSD are significantly more numerous. For example,
it can be seen that medical events, such as giving birth, miscarriage, heart attack,
cancer, or hospitalization following resuscitation may give rise to PTSD. Further,
people experiencing prolonged periods of distress may equally develop a posttraumatic syndrome without any one particular event having occurred to surpass
their defenses.
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In some cases, providers may initially consider PTSD and use this guideline first,
whereas in others it may be useful to follow the algorithms and recommendation of
the DoD/VA guideline for Post Deployment Health, the VA/DoD guideline for
medically unexplained symptoms or the VA/DoD guideline for Major Depressive
Disorder (MDD). All these guidelines provide a link to this module when appropriate.
RECOMMENDATIONS
1. Patients who are presumed to have symptoms of PTSD or who are positive
for PTSD on the initial screening should receive a thorough assessment of
their symptoms that includes details such as time of onset, frequency,
course, severity, level of distress, functional impairment, and other relevant
information to guide accurate diagnosis and appropriate clinical decisionmaking.
2. Consider use of a validated, self-administered checklist to ensure
systematic, standardized, and efficient review of the patient’s symptoms and
history of trauma exposure. Routine ongoing use of these checklists may
allow assessment of treatment response and patient progress (see Appendix
C: PCL-C).
3. Diagnosis of PTSD should be obtained based on a comprehensive clinical
interview that assesses all the symptoms that characterize PTSD. Structured
diagnostic interviews, such as the Clinician-Administered PTSD scale (CAPS),
may be considered.
DISCUSSION
Initial screening is discussed in the CORE module (See Core Module Annotation C,
and Appendix C: Screening Tools).
Table B - 1 Common Symptoms following Exposure to Trauma
•
•
•
•
•
•
•
•
•
•
•
•
•
•
•
Physical
Chills
Difficulty breathing
Dizziness
Elevated blood pressure
Fainting
Fatigue
Grinding teeth
Headaches
Muscle tremors
Nausea
Pain
Profuse sweating
Rapid heart rate
Twitches
Weakness
•
•
•
•
•
•
•
•
•
•
•
•
•
Cognitive/Mental
Blaming someone
Change in alertness
Confusion
Hyper-vigilance
Increased or decreased
awareness of
surroundings
Intrusive images
Memory problems
Nightmares
Poor abstract thinking
Poor attention
Poor concentration
Poor decision-making
Poor problem solving
Module B Management of PTSD
Emotional
Agitation
Anxiety
Apprehension
Denial
Depression
Emotional shock
Fear
Feeling overwhelmed
Grief
Guilt
Inappropriate
emotional response
• Irritability
• Loss of emotional
control
•
•
•
•
•
•
•
•
•
•
•
Behavioral
• Increased alcohol
consumption
• Antisocial acts
• Change in activity
• Change in communication
• Change in sexual
functioning
• Change in speech pattern
• Emotional outbursts
• Inability to rest
• Change in appetite
• Pacing
• Startle reflex intensified
• Suspiciousness
• Social withdrawal
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B.
VA/DoD Clinical Practice Guideline for the
Management of Post-Traumatic Stress
Assessment of Trauma Exposure
BACKGROUND
Assessment should include a careful examination of the traumatic experience itself,
including the nature of the event and the patient's involvement in it; the patient's
emotional, physical, and behavior responses at time of traumatization; and thoughts
and feelings about those responses (e.g., what he or she did or did not do).
RECOMMENDATIONS
1. Assessment of the trauma exposure experience should include:
a.
History of exposure to traumatic event(s)
b.
Nature of the trauma
c.
Severity of the trauma
d.
Duration and frequency of the trauma
e.
Age at time of trauma
f.
Patient’s reactions during and immediately following trauma exposure
(e.g., helplessness, horror, and fear)
g.
Existence of multiple traumas.
2. If trauma exposure is recent (<1 month), particular attention should be given to
the following:
a.
Exposure to/Environment of trauma
b.
Ongoing traumatic event exposure
c.
Exposure, perhaps ongoing, to environmental toxins
d.
Ongoing perceived threat.
3. When assessing trauma exposure, the clinician must consider the patient’s ability
to tolerate the recounting of traumatic material, since it may increase distress
and/or exacerbate PTSD symptoms.
DISCUSSION
The history also should include an assessment of prior stressful life events; coping
skills; ego resources and self-capacities; environmental and social resources;
cognitive functioning; psychiatric history; medical, family, social, and occupational
history; and cultural and religious background. This background is necessary to
establish an appropriate treatment plan specific to the individual patient. For
example, if the individual does not feel safe in his or her current living situation,
issues concerning safety need to be addressed first. Or, if the individual has a history
of childhood abuse and has learned to use dissociation to protect the self, treatment
will need to focus on helping the trauma victim manage his or her tendency to
dissociate under stress. Assessment of cognitive ability may be important after
trauma exposure because the patient’s cognitive status could influence the course of
psychotherapy, the specific psychotherapeutic technique recommended to the
patient, or the provision of group versus individual psychotherapy. The repeatedly
traumatized individual may also need to work through earlier childhood traumas as
well as the more recent traumatic event.
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C. Assessment of Dangerousness to Self or Others
BACKGROUND
It is crucial to assess for safety and dangerousness in persons with PTSD, including
current risk to self or others, as well as historical patterns of risk. Assessment of
dangerousness needs to take place in a safe and secure environment and should
begin with the building of rapport. In patients with thoughts of self-harm,
assessment should include existence of current intent and previous suicidal ideation,
intent, or history of a suicide attempt.
RECOMMENDATION
1. All patients with PTSD should be assessed for safety and dangerousness,
including current risk to self or others, as well as historical patterns of risk:
a.
Suicidal or homicidal ideation, intent (plan), means (e.g., weapon,
excess medications), history (e.g. violence or suicide attempts),
behaviors (e.g., aggression, impulsivity), co-morbidities (substance
abuse, medical conditions) [B]
b.
Family and social environment – including domestic or family
violence, risks to the family [B]
c.
Ongoing health risks or risk-taking behavior [B]
d.
Medical/psychiatric co-morbidities or unstable medical conditions [B]
e.
Potential to jeopardize mission in an operational environment. [I]
DISCUSSION
Any history of suicidal attempts or a family history of a completed or attempted
suicide should be taken seriously. Pay careful attention to patients with behaviors
that may signal dangerousness (e.g., agitation, threatening, intimidation, paranoia).
Access to weapons or other means of harm should also be taken seriously. Assess for
domestic or family violence, because these are elevated in those with PTSD.
Assessment of medical, psychiatric, and social/environmental risks is also warranted.
Assessment of dangerousness can include questions, such as:
•
You sound like you've had a very difficult time recently. Has life ever seemed like
it’s not worth living?
•
Have you ever thought about acting on those feelings? Have you thought of how
you would do this?
•
Sometimes, when people get really upset or angry, they feel like doing harm to
other people. Have you had any thoughts recently about harming others?
•
How do you express your feelings?
•
Are there times you are afraid to go home?
Dangerousness to Self
Suicidality - Persons with PTSD, including sub-threshold PTSD, are at high risk for
suicidal ideation (Marshall et al., 2001) and, for women, suicide attempts (Breslau,
2000; Ferrada-Noli et al., 1998; Kaslow et al., 2000; Prigerson & Slimack, 1999).
Suicidal behavior is best assessed with the following criteria: presence of active
depression or psychosis, presence of substance abuse, past history of suicidal acts,
formulation of plan, a stated intent to carry out the plan, feeling that the world would
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be better off if the patient were dead, availability of means for suicide (e.g., firearms
and pills), disruption of an important personal relationship, and failure at an
important personal endeavor. The presence of these factors often constitutes a
psychiatric emergency and must always be taken seriously. Among young adults,
aggressive symptoms may be predictive of suicidality in men and elevated symptoms
of PTSD and/or depression may be more predictive in women (Prigerson & Slimack,
1999). Other predictors of completed suicide in general include history of suicide
attempts, family history of suicide, access to weapons, male gender, and Caucasian
race. Rates of suicidal ideation in treatment-seeking Vietnam veterans have been 70
to 80 percent (Kramer et al., 1994). Additionally, Vietnam veterans with diagnosed
PTSD have an increased risk of death due to suicide as compared to those without
PTSD (Bullman & Kang, 1994). Among veterans with PTSD, intensive combat-related
guilt has been linked to suicidality (Hendin & Haas, 1991). These findings point to
the need for greater clinical attention to the role of guilt in the evaluation and
treatment of suicidal veterans with PTSD.
Individuals with severe childhood trauma (e.g., sexual abuse) may present with
complex PTSD symptoms and parasuicidal behaviors, (e.g., self mutilation,
medication overdoses) (Roth et al., 1997). Further, limited cognitive coping styles in
PTSD have been linked to a heightened suicide risk (Amir et al., 1999). Fostering
competence and social support may reduce this risk (Kotler et al., 2001). Co-morbid
substance use disorders may increase the risk of suicidality. Additionally, persons
with PTSD may also be at personal risk of danger through ongoing or future
victimization in relationships (e.g. domestic violence/battering, or rape).
•
Many war veterans suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depression, or both disorders (Tanielian, 2008 RAND). The majority of US soldiers in
Iraq were exposed to some kind of traumatic, combat-related situations, such as
being attacked or ambushed (92 percent), seeing dead bodies (94.5 percent),
being shot at (95 percent), and/or knowing someone who was seriously injured
or killed (86.5 percent) (Hoge, 2004).
•
In a nationally representative sample (N = 5877; age 15-54) that compared the
relationship between anxiety disorders and suicidal ideation or suicide attempts,
PTSD was significantly associated with suicidal ideation (adjusted odds ratio =
2.79; p < 0.01) and suicide attempts (adjusted odds ratio = 2.67; p < 0.01).
None of the other anxiety disorders was significantly associated with suicidal
ideation or attempts (Sareen, 2005).
•
Older and younger veterans are more prone to suicide than are middle-aged
veterans (Zivin, 2007). Veterans with PTSD have been reported to have high
levels of suicidal ideation and behaviors (Oquendo, 2005).
•
Jakupcak (2009) found PTSD to be a risk factor for suicidal ideation in Iraq and
Afghanistan War veteran. Veterans from OEF/OIF who screened positive for PTSD
were more than 4 times as likely to endorse suicidal ideation relative to nonPTSD veterans. Among veterans who screened positive for PTSD (n = 202), the
risk for suicidal ideation was 5.7 times greater in veterans who screened positive
for two or more co-morbid disorders relative to veterans with PTSD only.
•
Patients with co-occurring disorders, such as depression and alcohol abuse or
depression and posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), have been reported to be
at much higher risk for suicide than patients with only 1 of these disorders.
•
Male veterans with schizophrenia or schizoaffective disorder and co-morbid PTSD
were reported to have higher rates of suicidal ideation and suicidal behaviors
compared to those without co-morbid PTSD (Strauss, 2006).
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•
VA/DoD Clinical Practice Guideline for the
Management of Post-Traumatic Stress
In a large, nationally representative, longitudinal data set of depressed veterans
whose causes of death have been definitively identified using linked National
Death Index data, veterans who received a PTSD diagnosis had a lower rate of
suicide than did veterans without PTSD (68.16 vs 90.66, respectively). The
suicide rate was higher in the South than in the Northeast (88.93 vs 73.55,
respectively) or central regions (88.93 vs 83.09, respectively) but slightly lower
than rates in the West (88.93 vs 90.04, respectively). Veterans with a serviceconnected disability had a lower rate of suicide than those without a serviceconnected disability (70.06 vs 92.20) (Zivin, 2007).
Dangerousness to Others
Some individuals with PTSD may be at risk for violence toward others (Swanson et
al., 2002). Explosivity, anger problems, and past history of violence are associated
with an increased risk for violent behavior. Violence often emerges as a response to
a perceived threat or marked frustration by the patient stemming from his or her
inability to meet goals by nonviolent means. The specific factors that contribute to
violent behavior may include psychiatric, medical, environmental and
situational/social engagements. Often, it is a combination of these factors that
precipitates and aggravates the potential for violence, which may quickly escalate to
agitation or the carrying out of violent impulses. Whatever the cause, the following
situations may serve as warning signs pointing toward a very real threat of violence:
•
Ideation and/or intent to harm others
•
Past history of violent behaviors
•
Severely agitated, aggressive, threatening, or hostile behaviors
•
Actively psychotic presentation.
Clinicians should keep in mind the possibility that thoughts or plans of violent acts
toward others may represent thoughts of suicide, either after committing violence
against another person, or by creating a situation where another person will be
forced to harm the patient (e.g. ‘suicide by cop’). Special attention to the risk of
domestic violence is warranted. Careful attention to the home environment and
relationships is essential. If there are children, an assessment of parenting skills,
anger management, caregiver burden, and discipline style is crucial. Advising highrisk patients and their families on gun removal and safe storage practices has been
recommended to decrease the risk of violence (Seng, 2002). PTSD is a predictor of
violence in persons with severe mental illness (Swanson et al., 2002). Also,
substance use disorders are highly co-morbid in PTSD and can also predict violence.
Immediate attention and intervention may be required in order to ward off the
potential for escalation of agitation or violent impulses.
Health Risks
Persons with PTSD may have high rates of health risk behaviors, health problems,
and medical conditions. Thus, an assessment of health and behavioral risks in
individuals with PTSD is warranted. In addition to alcohol and drug use, persons with
PTSD are at high risk for cigarette smoking (Acierno et al., 1996) and obesity
(Vieweg et al., 2006). PTSD is a predictor of several HIV-risk behaviors as well as a
risk factor for related blood-borne infections, such as hepatitis B and C (Hutton et
al., 2001). Other potentially dangerous co-morbid medical conditions are intoxication
or withdrawal syndromes requiring medical detoxification (e.g., alcohol,
benzodiazepine, barbiturates, and possibly opiates). Medical conditions that can
present a danger to others include the risk of transmission of blood-borne
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pathogens, such as HIV and HCV/HBV; thus, risk assessment and serotesting are
warranted.
Medical Conditions
Urgent conditions - Any condition immediately threatening to life, limb, or
eyesight or requiring emergency medical care requires immediate attention.
Chronic diseases - PTSD has also been linked to cardiovascular disease, anemia,
arthritis, asthma, back pain, diabetes, eczema, kidney disease, lung disease,
ulcers, chronic pain, work absenteeism, and other generalized health problems
(Weisberg et al., 2002; Hoge et al., 2007). One explanation for these problems
may relate to the association of PTSD with dysregulation of the neuroendocrine,
autonomic, nervous, and immune system functions (Schnurr and Green, 2003;
Gill et al., 2009). Patients who have PTSD and other chronic medical diseases
may find that PTSD worsens their medical conditions. Some medical conditions,
which can be acutely dangerous in the presence of PTSD, include bronchial
asthma, peptic ulcer disease, GI bleed, and malignant hypertension (Davidson et
al., 1991).
Psychiatric Conditions
Delirium - (also known as organic brain syndrome, organic psychosis, acute
confusional state, acute brain syndrome, and various other names) is a disorder
of cognition and consciousness with abrupt onset that is frequently overlooked.
This is common in the elderly and medically ill (Farrell & Ganzini, 1995).
Acute or marked psychosis - "Psychosis" in and of itself is not a psychiatric
disorder. Rather, psychosis is a symptom, which may present in a variety of
conditions. Psychotic patients have an impaired sense of reality, which may
manifest in several forms (hallucinations, delusions, mental confusion or
disorganization). Acute psychosis represents a medical emergency.
Severe debilitating depression (e.g., catatonia, malnourishment, severe
disability) - While many mild to moderate illnesses may not necessarily present
situations mandating immediate attention, the presence of severe depressive
symptoms may represent a medical emergency, even in the absence of suicidal
ideation.
EVIDENCE
1
2
3
Recommendation
Assess for dangerousness
including suicidal or homicidal
ideation, intent, means, history,
behaviors, and co-morbidities
Assess family and social
environment – including risks
for family
Assess ongoing health risks or
risk-taking behaviors
Module B Management of PTSD
Sources
Breslau, 2000
Bullman & Kang, 1994
Ferrada-Noli et al., 1998
Kaslow et al., 2000
Marshall et al., 2001
Prigerson & Slimack, 1999
Swanson et al., 2002
Zivin, 2007
Seng, 2002
Swanson, 2002
LE
III
II-2
III
II-2
II
II
II
II-2
III
II
QE
Good
R
B
Good
B
Acierno et al., 1996
Hutton et al., 2001
Vieweg et al., 2006
II-2
II
II-2
Good
B
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4
Assess medical or psychiatric
co-morbidities or unstable
medical condition
5
In operational environment,
consider the potential to
jeopardize the mission
Davidson et al., 1991
Farrell et al., 1995
Weisberg et al., 2002
Hoge et al., 2007
Gill et al., 2009
Working Group Consensus
II
III
III
III
III
III
Good
B
Poor
I
LE = Level of Evidence; QE = Quality of Evidence; SR= Recommendation (see Appendix A)
D. Obtain Medical History, Physical Examination, Laboratory Tests and Psychosocial Assessment
OBJECTIVE
Obtain comprehensive patient data in order to reach a working diagnosis.
BACKGROUND
A wide range of medical conditions and treatments may result in abnormal behavior,
and many medical disorders may produce or exacerbate psychiatric symptoms in
patients with pre-existing mental illness. Multiple studies indicate high rates of
medical disease (24 to 50 percent) in patients presenting with psychiatric symptoms
(Williams & Shepherd, 2000). Failure to detect and diagnose underlying medical
disorders may result in significant and unnecessary morbidity and mortality
(Lagomasino et al., 1999). The converse problem is far greater in primary care:
patients present with somatic symptoms and have psychiatric disorders that have
not been properly diagnosed or treated. In one study, 5 of 6 patients with a
psychiatric diagnosis had a somatic presentation, and the primary care physician
made the diagnosis only half the time, whereas for the 16 percent with a
psychological complaint, the correct diagnosis was made 94 percent of the time
(Bridges et al., 1985). A standardized approach to medical evaluation, including a
thorough history, physical examination, laboratory evaluation, and occasionally other
ancillary testing, prevents the omission of important aspects of the evaluation
(Williams & Shepherd, 2000).
RECOMMENDATIONS
1. All patients should have a thorough assessment of medical and psychiatric
history, with particular attention paid to the following:
a.
Baseline functional status
b.
Baseline mental status
c.
Medical history: to include any injury (e.g., mild-TBI)
d.
Medications: to include medication allergies and sensitivities;
prescription medications; herbal or nutritional supplements; and
over-the‐ counter (OTC) medications (caffeine, energy drinks or use
of other substances)
e.
Past psychiatric history: to include prior treatment for mental health
and substance use disorder, and past hospitalization for depression
or suicidality
f.
Current life stressors.
2. All patients should have a thorough physical examination. On physical
examination, particular attention should be paid to the neurological exam and
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stigmata of physical/sexual abuse, self-mutilation, or medical illness. Note
distress caused by, or avoidance of, diagnostic tests/examination procedures.
3. All patients, particularly the elderly, should have a Mental Status Examination
(MSE) to include assessment of the following:
a.
Appearance and behavior
b.
Language/speech
c.
Thought process (loose associations, ruminations, obsessions) and
content (delusions, illusions and hallucinations)
d.
Mood (subjective)
e.
Affect (to include intensity, range, and appropriateness to situation
and ideation)
f.
Level of Consciousness (LOC)
g.
Cognitive function
h.
All patients should have routine laboratory tests as clinically
indicated, such as TSH, Complete Metabolic Panel, Hepatitis, HIV,
and HCG (for females). Also consider CBC, UA, Tox/EtoH panel, and
other tests
i.
Other assessments may be considered (radiology studies, ECG, and
EEG), as clinically indicated
j.
All patients should have a narrative summary of psychosocial
assessments to include work/school, family, relationships, housing,
legal, financial, unit/community involvement, and recreation, as
clinically appropriate.
DISCUSSION
Differential diagnosis is important, given the many co-morbidities associated with
PTSD, including dementia, depression, substance abuse/withdrawal, bereavement,
psychosis, bipolar disorder, seizure disorder, persistent post-concussion syndrome,
thyroid disease, neoplasm, somatoform-spectrum disorders (including irritable
bowel, chronic fatigue, headaches, and non-cardiac chest pain), anxiety disorders,
toxicosis, rheumatoid-collagen vascular disease, hypoxia, sleep apnea, closed head
injury, CHF, and delirium.
Medical and Psychiatric History
The medical history may be obtained from the patient, family, friends, or coworkers
or from official accounts of a traumatic event.
•
Substance use and misuse can cause, be caused by, and/or exacerbate PTSD.
Use of screening tools (such as the AUDIT, MAST, or DAST) can improve
detection of substance use disorders (see the VA/DoD Guideline for Substance
Use Disorder)
•
The active ingredients of OTC/herbal supplements can create pharmacokinetic
and pharmacodynamic interactions with prescribed medications or medications
that might be prescribed for treatment of PTSD (Shord et al., 2009; Ulbricht et
al., 2008). For example, the serotonin syndrome, present with substantial
anxiety symptoms, is the result of the interaction between SSRI or SNRI
medications and another serotonergic substance such as St John’s Wort or
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dextromethorphan (common ingredient in cough syrup); or prescription
medications such as tramadol (a prescription‐only analgesic), or methadone. An
additional concern involves energy drinks. These drinks contain caffeine in
modest to excessive amounts (Reissig et al., 2009) that may exacerbate anxiety
symptoms, or, indicate a deficit in attention that should be pursued further for an
underlying co-morbid etiology such as Attention‐Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder.
•
Risk factors suggesting the need for a higher-than-usual index of suspicion
include certain physiological and psychological conditions or life events that may
contribute to the development or exacerbation of PTSD symptoms (see
Annotation F).
Physical Examination
A brief screening physical examination may uncover endocrine, cardiac,
cerebrovascular, or neurologic disease that may be exacerbating or causing
symptoms. Particular attention should be given to a neurological examination and
stigmata of physical/sexual abuse, self-mutilation, or medical illness. Special note
should also be made of distress caused by, or avoidance of, diagnostic tests or
examination procedures, since these reactions may be suggestive of prior physical or
sexual abuse. Careful attention should also be given to complying with legal
mandates for documentation, reporting, and collection of evidence.
Mental Status Examination (MSE)
Particularly in the elderly patient, a full Mental Status Examination (MSE) including a
cognitive screening assessment should occur. The assessment may consist of using a
standardized instrument, such as the Folstein Mini-Mental State Examination (MMSE)
(Crum et al., 1993; Cummings, 1993; Folstein et al., 1975). Typically scores below
24 on the Mini Mental State Exam (MMSE) are suggestive of cognitive impairment
however, some older adults do not score well on the MMSE (there some tasks
patients have to perform with their hands; thus those who have full or partial
paralysis or even bad arthritis have a hard time doing those tasks and lose at least
2-3 points). If screening is suggestive of cognitive impairment and the patient is not
delirious, then a laboratory evaluation to assess for reversible causes of dementia is
appropriate. However, the PTSD assessment should be continued. If delirium is
present, consider it an emergency and stabilize the patient before continuing with
the PTSD assessment.
Level of Consciousness (LOC) should be assessed to rule out delirium. Abnormal tics
or movements should be noted, as well as dysarthria, dysprosody, aphasia,
agraphia, and alexia, which may suggest underlying neurological disease. Sensory
illusions may be seen in neurological syndromes and intoxications (Lagomasino et
al., 1999).
Consider seeking further evaluation and consultation from neuropsychology specialty
in cases of suspected cognitive disorders.
Laboratory Evaluation
The history and physical examination findings should be used to direct a conservative
laboratory evaluation. There is no test for PTSD, but PTSD is frequently co-morbid
with substance use disorders, depression, and high-risk behaviors. Therefore, testing
is directed toward detection of associated medical conditions and ruling out any
contraindications to medical therapy. Appropriate laboratory studies include: TSH,
Complete Metabolic Panel, Hepatitis, HIV, and HCG (for females). Also consider CBC,
UA, Tox/EtoH Panel, and other tests, as clinically indicated.
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Other Evaluation
•
Diagnostic imaging and neuropsychological testing are not a part of the standard
evaluation for PTSD. Proceed with management while awaiting the completion of
the laboratory evaluation
•
MRI/CT of the head may be indicated to rule out mass lesions, intracranial
bleeding, hydrocephalus, or subdural hematomas (Lagomasino et al., 1999)
•
ECG may rule out underlying cardiac abnormalities that preclude the use of
medications, such as tricyclic antidepressants (Lagomasino et al., 1999)
•
Consider EEG or other diagnostic testing, as indicated by history and physical
exam.
Psychosocial Assessment
•
Past psychiatric illness, treatment, or admission
•
Past/ongoing problems with anxiety, impulsivity, mood changes, intense/unstable
interpersonal relationships, suicidality, and hallucinations
•
Recreational use of drugs/alcohol/tobacco/caffeine
•
Social supports (family, friends, homelessness/housing, community, and financial
status)
•
Losses (bereavement, friend/family member injuries/death, occupation, and
moral injury/betrayal)
•
Occupational/educational/military history
•
Environmental resources
•
Coping Skills
•
Factors affecting expression and intensity of PTS symptoms
•
Legal issues
•
Religious/spiritual history.
Consider use of checklists to determine if psychosocial rehabilitation services are
indicated in PTSD treatment (see Module I-2: D. Psychosocial Rehabilitation
Intervention).
E. Assessment of Function, Duty/Work Responsibilities and Patient’s Fitness (In Relation To
Military Operations)
BACKGROUND
One of the key goals of care is to assist the individual in beginning to return to a
normal level of functioning. The clinician must assess the individual’s current level of
family, relationship, work/school, and social functioning.
Ideally, service members who become ineffective as a result of PTSD will be returned
to duty at the earliest possible time. For most military specialties, the time required
to enlist and train the soldier to minimal operational readiness often exceeds a year.
Consequently, service members who become ineffective due to stress-related
conditions constitute a significant source of trained personnel who potentially have
much to offer despite their disability. Assessment of fitness for duty may also have
implications for medical boards and vocational rehabilitation.
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RECOMMENDATION
1. Assessment of function should be obtained through a comprehensive narrative
assessment (see Table B-2), and the use of standardized, targeted, and validated
instruments designed to assess family/relationship, work/school, and/or social
functioning.
2. The determination of when to return to work/duty should take into consideration
the complexity and importance of the patient’s job role and functional
capabilities.
3. The continuing presence of symptoms of PTSD should not be considered in itself
as sufficient justification for preventing a return to work/duty.
DISCUSSION
Global Functional Assessment
Consider using instruments, such as the GAF (American Psychiatric Association,
1994) or the SF-36 (McHorney, 1994), to assess function. Such measures are useful
for directing therapeutic interventions and monitoring response to treatment. The
GAF score, while readily available and familiar to mental health professionals, is a
poor predictor of function among combat veterans with PTSD. The GAF score
explained only 17 percent of the variability in the scores among these combat
veterans (Miller et al., 2008). No single test (GAF, SF‐36, PCL, or many others) can
replace a careful and thoughtful clinical assessment when the clinician is tasked with
determining level of function.
Narrative Functional Assessment
Functional assessment must be considered from the patient’s point of view as well as
from the clinician’s point of view. A narrative account provides a more complete
picture of the patient and his/her response to trauma. It allows for targeted social
and behavioral interventions. Components of functional assessment should include:
work/school, relationships, housing, legal, financial, unit/community involvement,
and recreation.
Duty/Work Responsibilities
Practitioners who are managing patients suffering from stress reactions or PTSD
should consider a variety of factors when deciding if, and when, the individual is
ready to return to work or military duty, including severity of the condition, level of
occupational impairment, nature of the occupation, and the level of social support.
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Table B - 2 Components of Functional Assessment
Work
School
Marital & Family
Relationships
Recreation
Housing
Legal
•
•
•
•
•
•
•
•
•
•
•
•
•
•
•
•
•
•
•
•
•
•
•
•
•
•
•
•
•
Financial
•
•
•
•
•
Unit/Community
Involvement
•
•
•
Module B Management of PTSD
Is the person unemployed or seeking employment?
If employed, any changes in productivity?
Have co-workers or supervisors commented on any recent
changes in appearance, quality of work, or relationships?
Tardiness, loss of motivation, loss of interest?
Been more forgetful, easily distracted?
Changes in grades?
Changes in relationships with friends?
Recent onset or increase in acting out behaviors?
Recent increase in disciplinary actions?
Increased social withdrawal?
Difficulties with concentration and short-term memory?
Negative changes in relationship with significant others?
Irritable or easily angered by family members?
Withdrawal of interest in or time spent with family?
Any violence within the family?
Parenting difficulties?
Sexual function difficulties?
Changes in recreational interests?
Decreased activity level?
Poor motivation to care for self?
Sudden decrease in physical activity?
Anhedonia?
Does the person have adequate housing?
Are there appropriate utilities and services (electricity,
plumbing, other necessities of daily life)?
Is the housing situation stable?
Are there outstanding warrants, restraining orders, or
disciplinary actions?
Is the person regularly engaging in or at risk to be involved in
illegal activity?
Is patient on probation or parole?
Is there family advocacy/Dept. of Social Services (DSS)
involvement?
Does the patient have the funds for current necessities,
including food, clothing, and shelter?
Is there a stable source of income?
Are there significant outstanding or past-due debts, alimony,
child support?
Has the patient filed for bankruptcy?
Does the patient have access to healthcare and/or insurance?
Does the patient need to be put on profile, MEB, or limited
duty?
Is patient functional and contributing in the unit environment?
Is there active/satisfying involvement in a community group
or organization?
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F.
VA/DoD Clinical Practice Guideline for the
Management of Post-Traumatic Stress
Assessment of Risk/Protective Factors
BACKGROUND
Following a traumatic event, a majority of those exposed may experience acutetraumatic stress reaction. Of the population of persons who experience a traumatic
event, only a subset will ultimately develop PTSD. After 9 to 12 months, 15 to 25
percent continue to be disturbed by these symptoms. This group with persistent
symptoms may have a distinct combination of characteristics that determine the
presence of ongoing problems. The presence of, and interplay among, three groups
of risk factors—biological factors (including genetics), the nature of the trauma, and
the recovery environment (psychological and social support) work together to
contribute to an individual’s vulnerability or resilience to PTSD.
RECOMMENDATIONS
1. Patients should be assessed for risk factors for developing PTSD. Special
attention should be given to post-traumatic factors (i.e., social support, ongoing
stressors, and functional incapacity) that may be modified by intervention.
2. When evaluating risk factors for PTSD, the clinician should keep in mind that
PTSD is defined as occurring only after four weeks have elapsed following a
traumatic event. PTSD symptoms, however, may not appear until a considerable
time has passed—sometimes surfacing years later.
DISCUSSION
Risk Factors for PTSD
Two major systematic reviews of predictors of PTSD have been published (Brewin et
al., 2000; Ozer et al., 2003). The main outcome measure considered in the reviews
was effect size calculated for the different factors. Effect sizes give an indication of
the magnitude of the associations found.
The meta-analysis of risk factors for PTSD of assessed studies of trauma-exposed
adults reported that 14 different risk factors in the literature have a modest
association with PTSD development (Brewin et al., 2000). The review by Ozer et al.
(2003) focused on personal characteristics salient for psychological processing and
functioning and aspects of the traumatic event or its sequelae. Dissociation during
the trauma, perceived support, and perceived life threat were strongly associated
with PTSD. Prior trauma and prior (in early childhood or in adult life) adjustment
factors were identified among the pre-trauma factors. Prior trauma was more
strongly related to PTSD when the traumatic experience involved non-combat
interpersonal violence than when the traumatic experience resulted from combat or
an accident. Perceived life threat was more associated when assessment was further
away from the traumatic event and in non-combat interpersonal violence than in
accidents. Perceived social support was also more significant in studies that assessed
individuals further away from the time of the traumatic event. Family history of
psychiatric disorders was more significant among survivors of non-combat
interpersonal violence than when the traumatic experience was combat exposure.
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The following characteristics have been reported in studies to be risk factors for the
development of PTSD:
Pre-traumatic factors
•
Ongoing life stress or demographics
•
Lack of social support
•
Young age at time of trauma
•
Pre-existing psychiatric disorder
•
Female gender
•
Low socioeconomic status, lower level of education, lower level of intelligence,
race (African-American, American Indian, and Pacific Islander)
•
Prior trauma exposure (reported abuse in childhood, report of other previous
traumatization, report of other adverse childhood factors)
•
Family history of psychiatric disorders (genetics).
Peri-traumatic or trauma-related factors
•
Severe trauma
•
Type of trauma (interpersonal traumas, such as torture, rape, or assault, convey
a high risk of PTSD)
•
High perceived threat to life
•
Community (mass) trauma
•
Peri-traumatic dissociation.
Post-traumatic factors
•
Ongoing life stress
•
Lack of positive social support
•
Negative social support (e.g., negative reactions from others)
•
Bereavement
•
Major loss of resources
•
Other post-traumatic factors, including children at home and distressed spouse.
Overall, factors, such as gender, age at trauma, and race, predicted PTSD in some
populations but not in others. Further, factors, such as education, prior trauma, and
childhood adversity, predicted PTSD more consistently (Harvey & Bryant, 2000;
Harvey & Bryant, 1998b). However, this varies with the population and study
methods. Prior psychiatric history, childhood abuse, and family psychiatric history
have more consistent predictive effects. Factors operating during or after the trauma
(e.g., trauma severity, lack of social support, and additional life stress) have
somewhat stronger effects than pre-trauma factors. This finding is consistent with
other studies that suggest poor social support and ongoing life stress to be predictors
of PTSD development. This may have clinical implications, as early interventions that
increase social support after trauma exposure may reduce the likelihood of PTSD
(Litz et al., 2002).
The development of Acute Stress Disorder (ASD) at the time of the trauma is also a
risk for developing PTSD (Classen et al., 1998). Numerous prospective cohort studies
with various types of trauma exposure (e.g., violent assault and accidents) support
that ASD is a predictor of later PTSD (Brewin et al., 1999; Bryant et al., 2000;
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Harvey & Bryant, 1999; Mellman et al., 2001). In these studies, among persons with
ASD, 40 to 80 percent did develop PTSD. Finally, most studies suggest an increased
risk of PTSD development among individuals with peri-traumatic dissociation (Birmes
et al., 2001; Murray et al., 2002). Subsequent research indicates that it is the posttraumatic duration of dissociation, rather than the peri-traumatic occurrence of
dissociation (Panasetis & Bryant, 2003), that predicts the development of PTSD.
Pre-Traumatic Factors
Prior exposure to traumatic events is a risk indicator for chronic PTSD (Brewin et al.,
2000; Ozer et al., 2003). In particular, a history of exposure to interpersonal
violence, in childhood or adulthood, substantially increases the risk for chronic PTSD
following exposure to any type of traumatic event (Breslau, 2002; Brewin et al.,
2000; Ozer et al., 2003). Green et al. (2000) surveyed 1909 college-aged women
and found that those who had experienced interpersonal trauma and those who had
experienced multiple traumas exhibited elevated symptoms. Dougall et al. (2000)
hypothesized that prior trauma history sensitizes victims to the new stressor, thus
potentiating its impact. They argued that evaluating trauma history is essential for
improving early intervention efforts.
Epidemiological studies have yielded higher rates of PTSD in women than in men in
general populations, and there are also a number of gender differences in clinical
presentation after trauma. Seedat and Stein (2000) studied a series of patients
presenting with physical trauma after interpersonal violence and found that “women
were more likely than men to have been previously assaulted or to have sustained
injury by a relative or someone known to them, but less likely to have used
substances at the time of the assault or to require emergency surgery.” Although
there is considerable evidence suggesting a gender difference in PTSD prevalence, it
is unclear whether this difference may be related to a higher risk of traumas that
result in increased risk (e.g., rape) or greater willingness to seek mental healthcare
for PTSD among women. One analysis in military personnel suggested that women
and men who are working in support units with similar level of combat exposure
appear to have an equivalent risk of developing PTSD (Hoge et al., 2007), and
further research is needed. Numerous epidemiological studies utilizing representative
samples that have examined the prevalence of traumatic exposure and rates of PTSD
across the adult lifespan found that younger adults had the highest prevalence of
traumatic events and PTSD, followed by middle-aged adults and then older adults
(Creamer & Parslow, 2008; De Vries & Olff, 2009; Kessler et al., 2005; Spitzer et al.,
2008).
Pre-existing psychiatric problems are associated with more adverse responses to
trauma (Norris et al., 2002; Breslau, 2002), as shown in a review of epidemiological
studies that found that preexisting psychiatric disorder was one of 3 factors that had
a predictable effect on the development of PTSD. Two meta-analyses of risk or
predictive factors for PTSD have identified prior psychiatric history as a risk factor for
the development of PTSD (Brewin et al., 2000; Ozer et al., 2003). A family history of
psychiatric disorders may also contribute to a person’s vulnerability to PTSD. Brewin
and colleagues (2000) found that “factors, such as psychiatric history, reported
childhood abuse, and family psychiatric history … had more uniform predictive
effects” than did other risk factors, such as gender or age at trauma.
Genetics – Family history of any psychiatric disorder or possible genetic differences
in regulating pre-synaptic uptake of serotonin (or other neurobiological mechanism)
can increase risk. Genetic research has shown that of the two variants of the gene
regulating pre-synaptic uptake of serotonin, the long form appears to be associated
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with resilience and the short form with the vulnerability to stress events. Individuals
who inherited the short form and were exposed to four of more stressful life events
were much more likely to develop PTSD and depression and to attempt suicide
(Koenen et al., 2009). Other genes that may confer vulnerability or resilience are
currently under investigation. Twin studies have also indicated that there is a genetic
vulnerability to PTSD. Twin research to date suggests that exposure to assaultive
trauma is moderately heritable, whereas exposure to non-assaultive trauma is not.
PTSD symptoms are moderately heritable, and co-morbidity of PTSD with other
disorders may be partly due to shared genetic and environmental influences
(Koenen, 2008; Afifi, 2010).
Peri-Traumatic Factors
Foy et al. (1984) published one of the first formal studies to look at risk factors for
PTSD and reported characteristics of trauma exposure to be of central importance.
Numerous studies have since observed a dose-response relationship between trauma
severity and PTSD. The more severe the trauma, the more likely the person
experiencing it will develop PTSD. Armenian and colleagues (2000) found this to be
true among disaster victims. Feehan et al. (2001) found higher PTSD rates among
more severely traumatized members of a general cohort.
With regards to type of trauma, interpersonal violence (rape, torture, physical
assault) was found to be more likely to produce PTSD than more impersonal events
(such as accidents or group trauma) (Holbrook et al., 2001).
Situations where the trauma is potentially life-threatening also carry a high risk of
PTSD; in a meta-analysis of 68 PTSD studies, Ozer et al. (2003) found “perceived life
threat” to have a high risk value, and in Woods’ study of abused women, the
perceived threat of homicide played a role in the later development of PTSD.
Holbrook et al. (2001) diagnosed 261 (32 percent) of 824 individuals as having PTSD
6 months after major physical trauma. Patients who were totally incapacitated,
experienced physical injury, or suffered major losses were also at higher risk for
developing PTSD. Factors associated with a PTSD diagnosis included perceived threat
to life, female gender, younger age, and lower income.
Ozer et al. (2003) also found that dissociation at the time of the trauma is predictive
of later development of PTSD. Demographic factors may also be predictive.
Finnsdottir & Elklit (2002) found higher rates of PTSD among disaster victims who
were young at the time of the trauma. In a general group of psychiatric patients,
Neria et al. (2002) found young age at trauma to be a risk factor for PTSD. Finally,
biological factors may also be relevant to predicting PTSD. Shalev et al. (1998)
measured the heart rate and blood pressure of eighty-six trauma survivors at the
time of their presentation at a hospital emergency room and concluded that
“elevated heart rate shortly after trauma is associated with the later development of
PTSD.” In a meta-analysis, Yehuda et al. (1998) reported that studies
“demonstrated increased heart rate and lower cortisol levels at the time of the
traumatic event in those who have PTSD at a follow-up time compared to those who
do not.”
Post-Traumatic Factors
The post-trauma environment has been shown to be an important predictor of
chronicity (Berwin, 2000). The experience of traumatization may have life-altering
consequences in terms of social status, employment, and health, and continuing
difficulties in these areas may contribute to the likelihood that a person will develop
PTSD. Feehan et al. (2001), in interviews with 374 trauma survivors, found
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unemployment to be a risk factor. Likewise, in a meta-analysis performed by Norris
et al. (2002), “resource loss” was cited as a risk for PTSD.
Impaired social support is a not-infrequent outcome of a traumatic experience.
Armenian et al. (2000), Brewin et al. (2000), Gregurek et al. (2001), and Ozer et al.
(2003) all reported that the loss of support from significant others can pose a risk for
development of PTSD.
Finally, general ongoing life stress may also play a role. Brewin et al. (2000)
reported “life stress” to be more predictive of PTSD development than pre-traumatic
factors, such as gender or age at trauma. Norris et al. (2002) found that in disaster
victims, “secondary stressors” increased the likelihood of adverse outcomes.
Some have suggested that secondary gain related to compensation may predict
treatment outcome. Laffaye et al. (2008), in a comprehensive review of the
literature, found that initial levels of perceived support and stressors did not predict
the course of chronic PTSD symptoms. Furthermore, the literature indicates that
veterans who are seeking, or have been awarded, compensation participate in
treatment at similar or higher rates than do their non-compensation-seeking
counterparts. Veteran treatment outcome studies produced either null or mixed
findings, with no consistent evidence that compensation-seeking predicts worse
outcomes. Studies of motor vehicle accident survivors found no association between
compensation status and course of recovery (Laffaye, 2007).
Risk Factors for PTSD in Military Veterans
Friedman et al. (1994) concluded that “the likelihood of developing chronic PTSD
depends on premilitary and postmilitary factors in addition to features of the trauma
itself. Premilitary factors include negative environmental factors in childhood,
economic deprivation, family psychiatric history, age of entry into the military,
premilitary educational attainment, and personality characteristics. Postmilitary
factors include social support and the veteran's coping skills. Among military
personnel, there are three populations at risk for unique problems that may amplify
the psychological impact of war-zone stress. They are women whose war-zone
experiences may be complicated by sexual assault and harassment; nonwhite ethnic
minority individuals whose premilitary, postmilitary, and military experience is
affected by the many manifestations of racism, and those with war-related physical
disabilities, whose PTSD and medical problems often exacerbate each other.”
Among military service members, combat exposures are reported as the strongest
predictors of subsequent PTSD (Berwin, 2000; Clancy 2006; Foy, 1987; Baker 1997;
Smith 2008). The frequency and intensity of direct combat appears to be one of the
strongest predictors of PTSD. A number of studies have found a strong dose
response relationship of combat frequency and intensity to PTSD prevalence (e.g.
Hoge, et al., 2004; Dohrenwend et al., 2006; MHAT6 report (2009); and the Smith,
Ryan et al., 2008). Wartime exposure includes numerous combat events such as
being wounded, losing a team member, near miss of life witnessing, torture, witnessing
killing, or killing enemy or civilian in combat (Maguen et al., 2010).
Studies of veterans have reported gender differences in PTSD risks: war zone
stressors appear preeminent for PTSD in men, and post-trauma resilience-recovery
variables are more important for women (King et al., 1999).
There are good arguments favoring a genetic contribution to the PTSD diagnosis in
combat veterans. The Vietnam Twin Registry studies found the effect size of combat
exposure was 5 to 12 times smaller than the effect size of zygosity upon PTSD
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diagnosis (Gilbertson et al., 2006). Kremen et al. (2007) reported a similar
relationship by examining cognitive ability and rates of PTSD diagnosis. These data
from the Vietnam Twin Registry involve small N due to the sample nature, but they
do offer excellent support for a genetic contribution to PTSD diagnosis.
Clancy et al. (2006) examined the effect of exposure before, during, or after military
service. Findings indicated that non-military-related trauma was prevalent among
the veterans sample (90 percent). Regression analyses for PTSD symptom severity
revealed that age, greater combat exposure, and a history of physical assault after
military service were significantly associated with more severe PTSD symptoms.
Childhood physical abuse, adult sexual trauma, and a history of being physically
assaulted during military service were also significantly associated with PTSD
symptom severity.
Injury severity was a significant predictor of any mental health diagnosis and PTSD
diagnosis. Gunshot wounds and diastolic blood pressure were significant predictors of
any mental health diagnosis but not PTSD. A study of a sample of 1968 men (831
battle injuries and 1137 non-battle injuries) injured during Operation Iraqi Freedom
(OIF) found that those with battle injuries compared with non-battle injuries had a
greater risk of PTSD and other mental health diagnoses, and there was a positive
association with injury severity (MacGregor et al., 2009). Aggressive pain control
after injury has shown, in one study, to reduce the incidence of PTSD. The study
(Holbrook, 2010) found that the use of morphine during trauma care may reduce the
risk of subsequent development of PTSD after serious injury.
One semi-prospective study (Zohar, 2009) examined risk factors for the
development of post-traumatic stress disorder following combat trauma by
comparing a large sample of war veterans (Israeli Defense Force) who developed
PTSD with a matched control group of veterans who did not. Neither behavioral
assessment nor training was found to predict PTSD. The predictive factors that were
found were essentially non-specific, such as cognitive functioning, education, rank,
and position during the trauma, with little effect from training. The author concluded
that “… an armed force that uses universal recruitment, carefully structured
predrafting psychological assessment of social and individual qualifications (including
motivation) failed to identify increased risk factors for PTSD. However, nonspecific
factors were found to be associated with an increased risk for PTSD. This study
suggests that the focus of future research on risk factors for PTSD should incorporate
other domains rather than behavioral assessment alone” (Zohar et al., 2009).
Phillips et al. (2010) identified risk factors for PTSD among military service members
as related to their combat exposure. The threat of death and serious injury and the
witnessing of injury or death are significant risk factors for screening positive for
post-deployment PTSD among male Marines, as well as violence exposures prior to
entering the Marine Corps, which are independent of future combat exposures. Prior
assault was also found to increase vulnerability, rather than resilience against, PTSD
symptoms among military professionals in the Millennium Cohort Study of US
military cohort deployed in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan (Smith, 2008). Higher
frequency and intensity of combat has been strongly associated with increased rates
of PTSD (Hoge, 2004; Dohrenwend, 2006).
PTSD symptoms among service members deployed to Iraq or Afghanistan have been
associated with lower rank, being unmarried, less formal education, and a history of
childhood adversity (Smith, 2008; Iversen, 2008).
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The intrapersonal characteristic of hardiness as well as post-war social support may
be protective against developing PTSD. In contrast, negative life events in the
postwar or trauma period are linked to PTSD (King et al., 1998).
There is evidence that a strong social support network, indicated by unit cohesion, is
protective. A large social support network may diminish the association between
stressful life events and PTSD symptoms (Schnurr et al., 2004; Benotsch et al.,
2000; Brailey et al., 2007).
EVIDENCE
1
2
3
4
Evidence
Assessment of persons exposed to
trauma for risk factors for developing
PTSD (pre-trauma and post-trauma
risks)
Assessment of trauma type, nature, and
severity
Assessment of existing social supports
and ongoing stressors.
Patients with dissociative symptoms or
ASD warrant careful clinical attention
due to a high risk for developing PTSD
Sources
Brewin et al., 2000
Ozer et al., 2003
LE
II
QE
Good
SR
B
Brewin et al., 1999
Bryant et al., 2000
Harvey & Bryant, 2000
Mellman et al., 2001
Litz et al., 2002
II
Good
B
II
Good
B
Birmes et al., 2001
Brewin et al., 1999
Bryant et al., 2000
Harvey & Bryant, 2000
Mellman et al., 2001
Murray et al., 2002
II
Good
B
LE = Level of Evidence; QE = Quality of Evidence; SR = Strength of Recommendation (see Appendix A)
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2. TRIAGE
G. Diagnosis of PTSD or Clinical Significant Symptoms Suggestive of PTSD?
BACKGROUND
In the primary care setting, providers often do not have the time or resources to
accomplish a detailed mental health intake evaluation; so it is important for them to
be comfortable with the initial evaluation and management of stress-related
disorders without having to be concerned with the fine details of DSM-IV and making
a definite diagnosis. Providers who perform the initial evaluation of a patient with
suspected PTSD should recognize that a detailed recounting of the traumatic
experience may cause further distress to the patient.
Please refer to Annotation A for a discussion of post-traumatic symptoms.
RECOMMENDATION
1. A diagnosis of stress-related disorder consistent with the DSM IV criteria for
PTSD should be formulated before initiating treatment.
2. Diagnosis of PTSD should be obtained based on a comprehensive clinical
interview that assesses all the symptoms that characterize PTSD. Structured
diagnostic interviews, such as the Clinician-Administered PTSD scale (CAPS),
may be considered.
3. When a diagnostic work out cannot be completed, primary care providers
should consider initiating treatment or referral based on a working diagnosis of
stress-related disorder.
4. Patients with difficult or complicated presentation of the psychiatric component
should be referred to PTSD specialty care for diagnosis and treatment.
5. Patients with partial or sub-threshold PTSD should be carefully monitored for
deterioration of symptoms.
DISCUSSION
Approximately 90 percent of patients with a mental health diagnosis are seen in
primary care (Gebhart, 1996).
Many options are available to primary care providers to treat stress-related disorders
and to relieve the burden of suffering for PTSD patients including pharmacotherapy,
supportive counseling, and referral. Because these interventions can be helpful in a
variety of psychiatric disorders, it is not essential that a detailed diagnostic
assessment be completed prior to initiating treatment for PTSD.
In addition, a detailed recounting of the traumatic experience may cause further
distress to the patient and is not advisable unless a provider has been trained and is
able to support the patient through this experience.
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Table B - 3 Diagnostic criteria for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (DSM-IV)
A. The person has been exposed to a traumatic event in which both of the following were present:
1.
2.
The person experienced, witnessed, or was confronted with an event or events that involved
actual or threatened death or serious injury, or a threat to the physical integrity of self or
others
The person's response involved intense fear, helplessness, or horror. Note: In children, this
may be expressed instead by disorganized or agitated behavior
B. The traumatic event is persistently re-experienced in one (or more) of the following ways:
1. Recurrent and intrusive distressing recollections of the event, including images, thoughts, or
perceptions. Note: In young children, repetitive play may occur in which themes or aspects of
the trauma are expressed
2. Recurrent distressing dreams of the event. Note: In children, there may be frightening dreams
without recognizable content
3. Acting or feeling as if the traumatic event were recurring (includes a sense of reliving the
experience, illusions, hallucinations, and dissociative flashback episodes, including those that
occur on awakening or when intoxicated) Note: In young children, trauma-specific
reenactment may occur
4. Intense psychological distress at exposure to internal or external cues that symbolize or
resemble an aspect of the traumatic event
5. Physiological reactivity on exposure to internal or external cues that symbolize or resemble
an aspect of the traumatic event
C.
Persistent avoidance of stimuli associated with the trauma and numbing of general responsiveness
(not present before the trauma), as indicated by three (or more) of the following:
1.
2.
3.
4.
5.
6.
7.
Efforts to avoid thoughts, feelings, or conversations associated with the trauma
Efforts to avoid activities, places, or people that arouse recollections of the trauma
Inability to recall an important aspect of the trauma
Markedly diminished interest or participation in significant activities
Feeling of detachment or estrangement from others
Restricted range of affect (e.g., unable to have loving feelings)
Sense of a foreshortened future (e.g., does not expect to have a career, marriage, children, or a
normal life span)
1.
2.
3.
4.
5.
Difficulty falling or staying asleep
Irritability or outbursts of anger
Difficulty concentrating
Hypervigilance
Exaggerated startle response
D. Persistent symptoms of increased arousal (not present before the trauma), as indicated by two (or
more) of the following:
E.
F.
Duration of the disturbance (symptoms in Criteria B, C, and D) is more than 1 month
The disturbance causes clinically significant distress or impairment in social, occupational, or other
important areas of functioning
Specify if: Acute: if duration of symptoms is less than 3 months
Chronic: if duration of symptoms is 3 months or more
With Delayed Onset: if onset of symptoms is at least 6 months after the stressor
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DSM-IV & DSM-IV-TR Cautionary Statement
•
The specified diagnostic criteria for each mental disorder are offered as
guidelines for making diagnoses, because it has been demonstrated that the
use of such criteria enhances agreement among clinicians and investigators.
The proper use of these criteria requires specialized clinical training that
provides both a body of knowledge and clinical skills.
•
These diagnostic criteria and the DSM-IV Classification of mental disorders
reflect a consensus of current formulations of evolving knowledge in our field.
They do not encompass, however, all the conditions for which people may be
treated or that may be appropriate topics for research efforts.
•
The purpose of DSM-IV is to provide clear descriptions of diagnostic
categories in order to enable clinicians and investigators to diagnose,
communicate about, study, and treat people with various mental disorders. It
is to be understood that inclusion here, for clinical and research purposes, of
a diagnostic category, such as Pathological Gambling or Pedophilia, does not
imply that the condition meets legal or other non-medical criteria for what
constitutes mental disease, mental disorder, or mental disability. The clinical
and scientific considerations involved in categorization of these conditions as
mental disorders may not be wholly relevant to legal judgments, for example,
that take into account such issues as individual responsibility, disability
determination, and competency.
•
Dissociative symptoms are not considered an essential feature of PTSD, as
they are for ASD. Dissociative symptoms included among the diagnostic
criteria for PTSD are categorized as reexperiencing (e.g., dissociative
flashbacks) or avoidance /numbing (e.g., dissociative amnesia and psychic
numbing). For example, the dissociative symptom of psychic numbing which
is an expression of a restricted range of affect among the avoidance/numbing
symptoms of PTSD. Similarly, the inability to remember an important aspect
of the trauma describes the dissociative symptom of amnesia. Thus, while
dissociation has not been identified as a central feature of PTSD, dissociative
symptoms can contribute to a diagnosis of PTSD, making the comparison of
ASD and PTSD less inconsistent than it might seem.
Partial or Sub-threshold PTSD
Studies in which the prevalence of partial or sub-threshold PTSD was examined
found it to be substantial. In one study of infantry soldiers returning from Iraq,
the prevalence of PTSD was estimated to be 12 percent when a stringent PCL
definition of PTSD was utilized but rose to 18-20 percent when a more liberal
DSM symptom-based definition was applied (Hoge, 2004). A large Canadian
epidemiological study assessing for current PTSD found the incidence to be 5.0
percent (women) and 1.7 percent (men), but the incidence of partial PTSD was
even higher at 5.7 percent and 2.2 percent for women and men, respectively.
Individuals with sub-threshold PTSD showed similar levels of social and
occupational impairment as those meeting full criteria (Stein, 1997; Marshall,
2001).
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H. Assess for Co-Occurring Disorders
OBJECTIVE
Improve management of PTSD symptoms when they are complicated by the
presence of a medical or psychiatric co-morbidity.
BACKGROUND
Co-morbid medical and psychiatric conditions are important to recognize, because
they can modify clinical determinations of prognosis, patient or provider treatment
priorities, selection of interventions, and the setting where PTSD care will be
provided. Patients with PTSD have been found to frequently report physical
symptoms, cognitive health concerns, and utilize high levels of medical care services.
Providers should also expect that 50 to 80 percent of patients with PTSD will have
one or more coexisting mental health disorders. PTSD is strongly associated, among
veterans from recent deployment (OEF/OIF), with generalized physical and cognitive
health symptoms attributed to concussion/mild traumatic brain injury (mTBI).
Because of the many potential etiologies of these symptoms, it is generally best to
develop a collaborative care treatment strategy based in primary care and address
these health concerns simultaneously with PTSD symptoms (see VA/DoD Clinical
Practice Guideline for Post-Deployment Health). Management should focus on
identifying and treating the symptoms that are causing the most impairment,
regardless of the cause or diagnosis.
Some co-morbid medical or psychiatric conditions may require early specialist
consultation in order to assist in determining treatment priorities. In some cases,
these disorders may require stabilization before (or in concert with) initiation of PTSD
treatment.
RECOMMENDATIONS
1. Providers should recognize that medical disorders/symptoms, mental health
disorders, and psychosocial problems commonly coexist with PTSD and should
screen for them during the evaluation and treatment of PTSD.
2. Because of the high prevalence of psychiatric co-morbidities in the PTSD
population, screening for depression and other psychiatric disorders is warranted
(see also VA/DoD Clinical Practice Guidelines for the Management of Major
Depressive Disorder [MDD] and for Bipolar Disorder).
3. Patterns of current and past use of substance by persons with trauma histories or
PTSD should be routinely assessed to identify substance misuse or dependency
(alcohol, nicotine, prescribed drugs, and illicit drugs) (see also VA/DoD Clinical
Practice Guideline for Substance Use Disorders).
4. Pain (acute and chronic) and sleep disturbances should be assessed in all patients
with PTSD.
5. Generalized physical and cognitive health symptoms - also attributed to
concussion/mild traumatic brain injury (mTBI) and many other causes - should
be assessed and managed in patients with PTSD and co-occurring diagnosis of
mTBI (see also VA/DoD CPG for Concussion/mild-TBI, and the CPG for PostDeployment Health).
6. Associated high-risk behaviors (e.g., smoking, alcohol/drug abuse, unsafe
weapon storage, dangerous driving, HIV and hepatitis risks) should be assessed
in patients with PTSD.
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7. Providers should consider the existence of co-morbid conditions when deciding
whether to treat patients in the primary care setting or refer them for specialty
mental healthcare (See Annotation J).
8. Patients with complicated co-morbidity may be referred to mental health or PTSD
specialty care for evaluation and diagnosis (see Annotation J).
DISCUSSION
Co-morbid conditions and psychosocial problems of significant importance to
treatment planning include:
Medical Conditions: PTSD is associated with elevated rates of generalized physical
and cognitive health concerns, which are thought to be mediated in part by
neuroendocrine dysregulation and autonomic nervous system reactivity (Hoge et al.,
2007; Schnurr & Green, 2004). These health conditions can include chronic
headaches, chronic musculoskeletal pain, memory and attention problems, fatigue,
dizziness, gastrointestinal symptoms, sleep dysfunction, hypertension, rapid heart
rate (sometimes in association with panic symptoms), cardiovascular disease,
impulsivity, anger, sexual problems, and a variety of other health complaints. The
trauma-focused techniques may be undesirable and counter-productive for older
adults as they can lead to increased autonomic arousal and decreased cognitive
performance. In patients with serious cardiac problems, consultation from the
primary care physicians can be sought. If in consultation with other health
professionals, and the patient, it is decided that trauma-focused treatments is
feasible, then mental health treatment providers can proceed with caution and
closely monitor patients at greater risk from high arousal. These health concerns can
sometimes cluster together and may present as multisystem problems in the same
manner as somatoform-spectrum or medically unexplained physical symptom
(MUPS) conditions. These symptoms have been commonly described after all wars,
overlap with numerous conditions, and often have more than one potential etiology
(see DoD/VA Post-Deployment Health CPG). For example, service members or
veterans who present to primary care with headaches, cognitive problems, fatigue,
dizziness, and/or irritability may be experiencing these symptoms as a result of
chronic sleep deprivation, neuroendocrine/autonomic nervous system dysregulation
associated with PTSD, residual effects of injuries during deployment (including
concussions/mTBIs), chronic pain, medication side effects, depression, substance
misuse, or other causes. For veterans of combat, their experiences may have
involved the extremes of physiological stress, contributing to long-term
dysregulation of neuroendocrine and autonomic nervous systems.
It is important for clinicians to be aware of the high medical co-morbidity of PTSD
and the fact that physical health concerns (e.g., chronic pain, headaches) may make
it more difficult to treat PTSD symptoms. Because of the many potential etiologies of
these symptoms, it is generally best to develop a collaborative care treatment
strategy based in primary care and address these health concerns simultaneously
with PTSD symptoms, or the VA post-deployment care clinic model, an integrated
primary care – mental health clinical setting centered on the combat veteran (see
also the VA/ DoD Guideline for Post-Deployment Health).
Some medical disorders may restrict PTSD treatment options (e.g., dementia limits
psychotherapeutic options; cardiac conduction problems may limit some
pharmacotherapeutic options; and disorders that restrict mobility may limit ability to
attend weekly treatment sessions). It is generally best to maximize medical
management of these conditions first and then focus on PTSD treatment.
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Substance Use Disorders: Patients with PTSD frequently use alcohol, nicotine, and
other substances in maladaptive ways to cope with their symptoms. Approximately
40 to 50 percent of PTSD patients treated in the VA have current substance use
problems. Effective PTSD treatment is extremely difficult in the face of active
substance use problems, unless substance use disorders are also treated. Most often,
attempts to address substance problems should proceed concurrently with the direct
management of PTSD. However, in cases when the substance use is severe,
substance use may require initial treatment and stabilization before progressing to
PTSD care (e.g., patient requires detoxification from opiates) (see Annotation J2 Concurrent PTSD and Substance Abuse). Ongoing heavy alcohol use will interfere
with prolonged exposure therapy by chemically enhancing the extinction of anxiety,
thus not allowing the patient an opportunity to fully engage in therapy.
Mild-Traumatic Brain Injury (mTBI): Providers should have specific awareness of
traumatic brain injury (TBI), particularly concussion/mTBI, in the post-deployment
population because of the high incidence of concussion/mTBI during deployment (1020 percent of combat veterans), and high co-morbidity of post-concussive symptoms
(PCS) with PTSD. Concussion/mTBI is common in sports injuries, motor vehicle
accidents, military training (e.g., hand-to-hand combat), and combat. It is
associated with a variety of symptoms that will manifest immediately following the
event, and may resolve quickly, within minutes to hours after the injury event. In
certain individuals the symptoms persist longer leading to a persistent postconcussion symptoms (PPCS). Although there has been controversy of the relative
contribution of concussion/mTBI and PTSD to post-deployment health outcomes,
what is not controversial, is that PPCS include many of the same symptoms that
veterans report after combat service, and overlap with the physical and cognitive
health problems associated with PTSD, depression, and other causes (Bryant, 2008;
Hoge, 2009; Stein & Mcallister, 2009). Several studies in OIF/OEF veterans have
shown that PTSD is associated with post-deployment cognitive impairment,
headaches, and other post-concussive symptoms. A history of concussion/mTBI with
loss of consciousness has also been shown to have a small independent association
with some post-deployment outcomes (Schneiderman et al., 2008; Hoge et al.,
2008; Marx et al., 2009; Pietrzak et al., 2009). These studies highlight the complex
interrelationship of causal factors responsible for post-deployment symptoms, and
supports collaborative care approaches to treatment.
It is often difficult to precisely attribute symptoms to concussive events that occurred
months or years earlier. Combat-related concussions (particularly those involving
loss of consciousness) are associated with an increased risk of PTSD, presumably
because of the life-threatening context of the concussion (distinct from concussions
occurring in non-life threatening situations, such as sports accidents, which are not
associated with PTSD), but possibly because of other factors (e.g., physiological,
neurocognitive) inherent to the TBI, as well.
Psychiatric Disorders: In addition to substance use disorders, other commonly
occurring mental disorders that co-exist with PTSD include: major depression,
dysthymia, panic disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and generalized anxiety
disorder. Treatment of these disorders often occurs concurrently with therapy for
PTSD, but on occasion they will take precedence. These disorders have evidencebased therapies that may pose additional effective treatment options. Co-morbid
disorders that are less common with PTSD, but not rare, include psychotic disorders
and bipolar disorder. Practitioners should be alert to co-morbid eating disorders,
such as bulimia, particularly in women.
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Personality Disorders: Personality disorders are long-term problems of coping that
begin in childhood or adolescence and are often associated with past abuse or
neglect and recurrent relationship problems. These patterns often result in poor
adherence to prescribed PTSD management, and the primary care provider may
require early assistance and advice from the mental healthcare provider.
The primary care practitioner should remain cautious of making a personality
disorder diagnosis when PTSD is a known or suspected diagnosis. In some instances,
PTSD could explain behavior attributed to a personality disorder. A mistaken
personality disorder diagnosis can lead to delays in treatment for PTSD. For example,
poor adherence to treatment may indicate a personality disorder, but it also may
indicate a patient who was sexually assaulted on active military duty and is angry
with authority figures because the assault was not appropriate investigated by the
military chain of command.
Psychosocial Problems: Associated behavior problems and psychosocial deficits
commonly present in patients with chronic PTSD include:
I.
•
Homelessness
•
Suicidality
•
Domestic violence or abuse
•
Aggression, rage.
Educate Patient and Family
OBJECTIVE
Help trauma survivors cope with ASD/PTSD by providing information that may help
them manage their symptoms and benefit from treatment.
BACKGROUND
Education of the trauma survivor is a core component of all PTSD treatment.
Survivors need to better understand what they are experiencing, how to cope with
reactions or symptoms, and what happens in treatment. It is also helpful to provide
this information to family members or to the patients' significant others so that they
can more effectively support the patient’s recovery.
Education may be helpful in encouraging patients to self‐refer to treatment or for
family members encouraging a patient to attend treatment. Chaplains, particularly in
the active duty military population, can be highly effective educational liaisons.
Military culture does not attach any stigma to speaking with a chaplain although
some military members may be reluctant to seek mental health assistance.
Education from military chaplains may reduce barriers to care.
Caregivers (informal and formal) are often integral to treatment with older adults
who are physically and mentally vulnerable/compromised. When conducting therapy
with those with cognitive or physical impairments, providers may want to engage
caregivers for additional support, reinforcement of materials presented in therapy,
and assistance with transportation in getting to treatment.
RECOMMENDATIONS
1. Trauma survivors and their families should be educated about PTSD symptoms,
other potential consequences of exposure to traumatic stress, practical ways of
coping with traumatic stress symptoms, co-morbidity with other medical health
concerns, processes of recovery from PTSD, and the nature of treatments. [C]
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2. Providers should explain to all patients with PTSD the range of available and
effective options for PTSD treatment.
3. Patient preferences along with provider recommendations should drive the
selection of treatment interventions in a shared and informed decision-making
process.
DISCUSSION
PTSD education involves teaching the survivor to label, recognize, and understand
PTSD symptoms (and other trauma-related problems) that he or she is experiencing.
Education should include discussion of the adaptive nature of many of the symptoms,
which have to do with survival and the body’s normal responses to threat. This is
particularly important if PTSD occurred after exposure encountered in an
occupational context, where the person was trained to respond to critical incidents
(e.g., military, firefighter, police, and other first responders). Education should also
provide simple advice regarding coping (such as sleep hygiene instruction), explain
what can be done to facilitate recovery, and describe treatment options. Education
can help make symptoms more understandable and predictable, decrease fear of
symptoms, increase social support and lessen feelings of isolation, increase
awareness of coping options and reduce maladaptive coping, and help survivors
decide whether to seek treatment or learn how to better participate in treatment.
Education should be one of the first steps of PTSD treatment. It can help establish
the credibility of the treatment provider, make treatment seem immediately helpful
to the patient, and help prepare the patient for next steps in treatment. In fact,
education should continue throughout PTSD treatment, sometimes in brief
discussions when the patient has questions and sometimes more systematically as a
formal activity. It can be delivered to individuals or to groups. Because patients with
PTSD often have difficulties with concentration and memory, repetition of educational
information and provision of written information are important.
The content of PTSD-related education can include the following topics:
Nature of PTSD symptoms: It is useful to help the survivor identify and label the
reactions that he or she may be experiencing, recognize that emotional and
physical reactions are expected after trauma, understand how the body’s
response to trauma includes many of the symptoms of PTSD, and understand
that anxiety and distress are often “triggered” by reminders of the traumatic
experience that can include sights, sounds, or smells associated with the
trauma, physical sensations (e.g., heart pounding), or behaviors of other
people.
Practical steps to cope with trauma-related problems: Survivors can also be
educated about ways of coping with their PTSD symptoms in order to minimize
their impact on functioning and quality of life. While education about coping is
not a substitute for more systematic coping skills training, information on
specific topics can be useful. Survivors can be helped to distinguish between
positive and negative coping actions. Positive coping includes actions that help
to reduce anxiety, lessen other distressing reactions and improve the situation;
they include relaxation methods, physical exercise in moderation, talking to
another person for support, positive distracting activities, and active
participation in treatment. Negative coping methods may help to perpetuate
problems and can include continual avoidance of thinking about the trauma,
use of alcohol or drugs, social isolation, and aggressive or violent actions.
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Nature of the recovery process and PTSD treatment: Survivors will sometimes
have unrealistic or inaccurate expectations of recovery and may benefit from
understanding that recovery is an ongoing daily gradual process (i.e., it doesn’t
happen through sudden insight or “cure”) and that healing doesn’t mean
forgetting about the trauma or having no emotional pain when thinking about
it. Education about what happens in treatment is also important. Treatment
providers should explain and encourage discussion of treatment options,
including evidence-based treatments. This can help build motivation to
participate or persist in treatment.
Despite the fact that education is a component in all PTSD treatment and the strong
clinical consensus that exists as to the importance of education, there is little
empirical evidence that it reduces PTSD symptoms. Education is a component of
empirically supported treatments but has not been evaluated as a “stand-alone”
treatment (nor is it intended to be delivered in the absence of other treatment
elements).
EVIDENCE
Recommendation
Sources
QE
QE
Educate patients and family
Working Group Consensus
III
Poor
members regarding the trauma, its
effects, ways of coping, and the
treatment process.
LE = Level of Evidence; QE = Quality of Evidence; SR= Recommendation (see Appendix A)
1
J.
R
C
Determine Optimal Setting for Management of PTSD and Co-Occurring Disorders
J1. Management of PTSD with Co-morbidity
BACKGROUND
When PTSD has been determined to be the primary target of intervention because it
is significantly impairing a patient’s functioning or causing a high level of distress,
the patient’s preferences and motivation, the co-occurrence of other conditions, and
the capacity to provide the necessary services should be considered in determining
the optimal setting for treatment and long-term management. The referral to
specialty care may be considered in this context.
When there are co-occurring medical or psychiatric conditions, the clinician will need
to determine the best strategy for prioritizing and treating multiple disorders. In
general, these disorders should be treated concurrently with PTSD treatment,
although there are exceptions, such as severe substance dependence, that require
medical detoxification prior to other forms of treatment. One important decision
point is whether PTSD and its psychiatric co-morbidities should be treated in the
primary care setting or referred to specialty mental healthcare.
REOMMENDATIONS
Consultation / Referral
1. PTSD and co-morbid mental health conditions should be treated concurrently for
all conditions through an integrated treatment approach, which considers patient
preferences, provider experience, severity of the conditions, and the availability
of resources.
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2. Patients with PTSD and severe co-morbid mental health conditions should be
treated either through referral or in consultation with a provider that is
experienced in treating the co-morbid conditions.
3. Because of the profound social impairment of PTSD (caused, for example, by the
patient’s anger and avoidance symptoms), close friends and family members in
the patient’s immediate daily environment (e.g., parents, spouse, or children)
should be provided with education and advised to consider assistance from
specialty care, both for individual treatment and couples/family treatment.
4. Factors to consider when determining the optimal setting for treatment include:
a.
Severity of the PTSD or co-occurring disorders
b.
Local availability of service options (specialized PTSD programs,
evidence-based treatments, behavioral health specialty care, primary
care, integrated care for co-occurring disorders, Vet Centers, other)
c.
Level of provider comfort and experience in treating psychiatric comorbidities
d.
Patient preferences
e.
The need to maintain a coordinated continuum of care for chronic comorbidities
f.
Availability of resources and time to offer treatment.
5. Considerations related to possible referral:
Complicated severe PTSD: Some patients with PTSD have complicated,
challenging presentations. These patients warrant referral to specialty
PTSD care that includes access to cognitive-behavioral evidence-based
treatments (see Module I-2: Treatment for PTSD).
Co-occurring major depressive disorder (MDD) in the absence of significant
suicidality, panic, or generalized anxiety often shows reduction in
intensity when the PTSD is treated. Depression of mild severity may not
require referral to specialty care or additional treatments outside those
targeting PTSD. Patients should be carefully monitored for changes in
symptoms. A reduction of PTSD symptoms that is not accompanied by
reduction of symptoms in depression or anxiety would justify a more
formally targeted treatment (refer to the VA/DoD guideline for MDD).
Co-occurring mild to moderate disorders, such as substance use, pain
disorders, and sleep problems, can frequently be effectively treated in
the context of PTSD treatment and do not require a referral to specialty
care. Consultation, to integrate adjunctive interventions, may be
considered (see the respective VA/DoD CPGs).
Co-occurring severe psychiatric disorders, while not precluding concurrent
PTSD treatment, typically justify referral to specialty care for evaluation
and treatment. These disorders may include: Severe Major Depression or
Major Depression with suicidality, Unstable Bipolar Disorder, Severe
Personality Disorders, Psychotic Disorders, Significant TBI, and Severe
Substance Use Disorder (SUD) or substance abuse of such intensity that
PTSD treatment components are likely to be difficult to implement.
Persistent Post-Concussion Symptoms in patients who present with PTSD
and a history of concussion/mTBI may be best managed within either
primary care or polytrauma rehab settings that utilize a multidisciplinary
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Management of Post-Traumatic Stress
team approach. Providers should recognize that mTBI/concussion is one
of numerous possible etiologies of co-morbid post-deployment symptoms
occurring in veterans and service members with PTSD, and it is often
difficult to precisely attribute symptoms to concussive events that
occurred months or years earlier. From a treatment standpoint, physical
or cognitive symptoms, such as headaches or memory problems, or
other persistent post-concussive symptoms should be treated
symptomatically whether or not concussion/mTBI is thought to be one of
the causal factors. Clinicians should not get caught up in debating
causation but maintain focus on identifying and treating the symptoms
that are contributing to the most impairment. There is no evidence to
support withholding PTSD treatments while addressing post-concussive
symptoms.
DISCUSSION
A number of guiding principles should be considered in making treatment decisions
with these patients:
•
Integrated care models, in which the physical and mental health needs of
patients are addressed in a single setting by a multidisciplinary provider team,
have potential to reduce perceived stigma associated with help-seeking
•
In systems where integrated care models do not exist, consultation and
comprehensive assessment by a mental health provider are recommended
•
In general, referral to specialty mental health is indicated if a patient with PTSD
has co-morbid mental disorders that are severe or unstable. Examples include:
patients whose depression is accompanied by suicidality, patients with substance
dependence, and patients with concurrent psychotic or bipolar disorder. If the
patient is referred to mental health for treatment of PTSD, then it is usually best
for the mental health provider to provide comprehensive treatment for all mental
disorders.
•
For patients referred to specialty mental healthcare, it is important to preserve
the continuity of care by ensuring ongoing communication with the primary care
provider and to ensure coordination of care when multiple providers are involved.
J2. Management of Concurrent PTSD and Substance Use Disorder
OBJECTIVE
Improve management of PTSD symptoms when they are complicated by a
concurrent substance abuse problem.
BACKGROUND
Research has documented a strong relationship between co-occurring PTSD and
substance use problems in civilian and military populations of both genders (e.g.,
Jacobsen et al., 2001; Kessler et al., 1995). In FY 2008 almost 22% of VA patients
diagnosed with PTSD also received a SUD diagnosis with rates of 70% seen in
patients hospitalized for PTSD. Similarly, an extensive literature has documented
high rates of PTSD among male veterans seeking SUD treatment. Patients diagnosed
with both disorders tend to have poorer long-term prognoses for each condition than
do those with one diagnosis without the other.
A similar relationship exists between PTSD and nicotine dependence (Fu et al., 2007;
McFall et al., 2006). Smoking rates were high among clinical samples with PTSD
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(40%-86%) as well as nonclinical populations with PTSD (34%-61%). Most studies
showed a positive relationship between PTSD and smoking and nicotine dependence,
with odds ratios ranging between 2.04 and 4.52.
In addition to the recommended PTSD services, programs should address substance
use conditions that exist in association with the PTSD. Treatment services directed
toward these additional SUD problems, when they exist, are associated with SUD
improvement. Given improvement in PTSD symptoms, co-occurring SUD problems
may show some spontaneous improvement if services are not provided, but in many
instances the SUD must be addressed directly.
There is no evidence to support a preferred sequencing of treatments for diagnoses.
In general, treatments for patients with both PTSD and SUD can be effectively
delivered concurrently. Providers should consult the relevant CPG for SUD and PTSD
individually. Clinical judgment based on systematic symptom monitoring will
continue to be needed in deciding which specific treatments to implement, for which
patients, and under which treatment conditions.
RECOMMENDATIONS
1. All patients diagnosed with PTSD should receive comprehensive assessment for
SUD, including nicotine dependence (as recommended by the separate Clinical
Practice Guideline).
2. Recommend and offer cessation treatment to patients with nicotine dependence.
[A]
3. Patients with SUD and PTSD should be educated about the relationships between
PTSD and substance abuse. The patient’s prior treatment experience and
preference should be considered since no single intervention approach for the comorbidity has yet emerged as the treatment of choice
4. Treat other concurrent Substance Use Disorders consistent with VA/DoD clinical
practice guidelines including concurrent pharmacotherapy:
a. Addiction-focused pharmacotherapy should be discussed, considered, available and
offered, if indicated, for all patients with alcohol dependence and/or opioid
dependence.
b. Once initiated, addiction-focused pharmacotherapy should be monitored for
adherence and treatment response.
5. Provide multiple services in the most accessible setting to promote engagement
and coordination of care for both conditions. [I]
6. Reassess response to treatment for SUD periodically and systematically, using
standardized and valid self-report instrument(s) and laboratory tests. Indicators
of SUD treatment response include ongoing substance use, craving, side effects
of medication, emerging symptoms, etc.
7. There is insufficient evidence to recommend for or against any specific
psychosocial approach to addressing PTSD that is co-morbid with SUD. [I]
DISCUSSION
Co-occurring PTSD and SUD is associated with: more severe PTSD symptoms; the
higher the rates of other co-occurring Axis I and II Disorders, the higher the rates of
medical problems and the greater the likelihood of relapse (Najavits, 1997: Ouimette
and Brown, 2002; Brady, 2001). Rates of co-occurrence are high: Men with PTSD are
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5 times more likely to have a SUD compared to the general population. Women with
PTSD are 1.4x more likely (Helzer et al., 1987). Lifetime prevalence of PTSD among
individuals seeking SUD treatment has been reported as high as 50%. Population
based data are lower.
The literature, in general, provides support for improved SUD and PTSD symptoms
when individuals are provided treatment. No systematic findings indicate harm to
patients provided integrated treatment for co-occurring SUD and PTSD and there is
recognition that both conditions ought to be addressed. There are findings that
support provision of integrated treatment for SUD and PTSD both as an adjunct to
existing SUD treatment services or as stand-alone treatments (Ouimette et al.,
1998a). However, the data are limited making it difficult to clearly identify one
specific treatment as the “gold standard.” Studies examining both patient
characteristics and clinician concerns indicate that one central feature may be the
high rate of other co-occurring Axis I and Axis II psychiatric disorders among this
cohort and not just SUD and PTSD alone (Cacciola et al., 2008). A key component of
this seems to be the likelihood of more severe symptom presentation (e.g., history
of suicide attempts, inpatient psychiatric hospitalizations).
Addiction-focused pharmacotherapy should be provided in addition to any indicated
pharmacotherapy for co-existing PTSD and directly coordinated with specialty
psychosocial treatment and adjunctive services for psychosocial problems as well as
with the patient’s primary care and/or general mental health providers.
Because withdrawal symptoms experienced during early abstinence may be
associated with a resurgence of traumatic memories, worsening PTSD symptoms,
and, possibly, increased risk for suicidal thoughts or attempts (Kosten & Krystal,
1988), the client should be supported closely through this period, prepared for
possible short-term worsening of PTSD symptoms, and helped to develop strategies
for managing symptoms and urges to drink or use.
Because patients with SUD and PTSD may be at higher risk for relapse and their
relapses may be “triggered” in part by trauma reminders and cues, clinicians should
adapt relapse prevention methods to help substance abuse patients identify their
trauma-related relapse cues and prepare them to cope with those triggers without
drinking or using.
EVIDENCE
Recommendation
Sources
QE
QE
Routinely assess substance use
Working Group Consensus
III
Poor
patterns of clients with trauma
histories or PTSD
2 Offer addiction-focused
Brady et al., 2005
I
Good
pharmacotherapy when appropriate
4 Educate substance-abusing patients
Working Group Consensus
III
Poor
with PTSD about the relationships
between PTSD and substance abuse
5 Consider concurrent PTSD treatment Najavits, 2002
II-2
Mod
or provision of integrated
Ouimette et al., 1998
PTSD/substance abuse treatment
6 Follow-up care for SUD-PTSD
Ouimette et al., 2000
II-3
Fair
should include a continued focus on
both and monitoring
LE = Level of Evidence; QE = Quality of Evidence; SR= Recommendation (see Appendix A)
1
Module B Management of PTSD
R
I
B
I
C
I
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J3. The Role of the Primary Care Practitioner
BACKGROUND
Primary care clinicians may decide to refer for specialized psychiatric care at any
point, depending on their level of comfort, experience, experience in treating PTSD,
the particular needs and preferences of the patient, and the availability of other
services.
RECOMMENDATIONS
1. Primary care providers should routinely provide the following services for all
patients with trauma-related disorders, especially those who are reluctant to seek
specialty mental healthcare:
•
Education about the disorder and importance of not letting stigma and
barriers to care interfere with specialty treatment if needed
•
Provision of evidence-based treatment within the primary Care or through
referral
•
Regular follow-up and monitoring of symptoms
•
Regular follow-up and monitoring of co-morbid health concerns.
2. Primary care providers should consider consultation with mental health providers
for patients with PTSD who warrant a mental health referral but refuse it or seem
reluctant to talk to a mental health provider.
3. Primary care providers should take leadership in providing a collaborative multidisciplinary treatment approach. Team members may include the primary care
providers, mental health specialists, other medical specialists (e.g., neurology,
pain management), chaplains, pastors, social workers, occupational or
recreational therapists, Vet Center staff members, staff of family support centers,
exceptional family member programs, VA benefits counselors, vocational
rehabilitation specialists, peer counselors, and others.
4. When an integrated behavioral health clinician is available (e.g., collaborative
care model, or Post-Deployment Care clinics) evidence-based treatment should
be provided.
5. Primary care providers should continue to be involved in the treatment of
patients with acute or chronic stress disorders. All patients with PTSD should
have a specific primary care provider assigned to coordinate their overall
healthcare.
3. TREATMENT
K. Initiate Treatment Using Effective Interventions for PTSD
BACKGROUND
Many treatment strategies are available to treat stress-related disorders and to
relieve the burden of suffering for PTSD patients. Options include pharmacotherapy,
psychotherapy, and somatic and alternative medicine interventions. Treatment may
be provided by primary care providers, specialty mental health providers, or some
combination of these.
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Primary care is an ideal setting in which to educate patients and their families about
treatment options for post-traumatic stress. Patient education is recommended as an
element of treatment of PTSD for all PTSD patients and their family members. Such
educational efforts must include informing patients that even if they respond to
medication therapy, treatment for a longer period may be needed. The patient’s
preferences along with provider recommendations should drive the selection of
treatment interventions in a shared decision-making process.
Discussion of the evidence supporting the recommendations for treatment
intervention is included in Module I-2: Treatment for PTSD.
RECOMMENDATIONS
1. A supportive and collaborative treatment relationship or therapeutic alliance
should be developed and maintained with patients with PTSD.
2. Evidence-based psychotherapy and/or evidence-based pharmacotherapy are
recommended as first-line treatment options.
3. Specialized PTSD psychotherapies may be augmented by additional problemspecific methods/services and pharmacotherapy.
4. Consider referral for alternative care modalities (Complementary Alternative
Medicine) for patient symptoms, consistent with available resources and
resonant with patient belief systems. [See Module I-2]
5. Patients with PTSD who are experiencing clinically significant symptoms,
including chronic pain, insomnia, anxiety, should receive symptom-specific
management interventions. [See Module I-3]
6. Management of PTSD or related symptoms may be initiated based on a
presumptive diagnosis of PTSD. Long-term pharmacotherapy will be
coordinated with other intervention.
For Specific Treatment Modalities: See Module I-2 Treatment Interventions for PTSD:
Psychotherapy
Pharmacotherapy
Adjunctive Treatments
Somatic Therapy
Complimentary Alternative Therapy (CAM)
DISCUSSION
Establishing Therapeutic Alliance
Many people with PTSD find that their relationships with others have changed as a
result of exposure to trauma. They often report that they have difficulty trusting
others, are suspicious of authority, dislike even minor annoyances, and generally
want to be left alone. Since the clinician-patient relationship draws heavily on trust,
respect, and openness, and since the relationship often has to be formed in a busy
clinical or bureaucratic setting, the provider may find the PTSD patient to seem to be
withholding, negativistic, or even hostile at the initial meeting. The patient may seem
to have “an attitude,” or “Axis II” co-morbidity. As a result, many combat veterans
feel misunderstood or misdiagnosed by otherwise competent professionals, and
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ultimately the patient suffers through feeling betrayed and misunderstood by the
mental health professional. If a therapeutic relationship is to have any opportunity to
develop, the treatment provider must adopt a stance of caring and concerned
involvement that takes what the patient says at face value, doesn’t judge or label
this type of behavior, and doesn’t withdraw into an “objective” “professional” role. In
short, the clinician who can relate honestly and openly is more likely to have a
patient who is willing to relate to him/her as a fellow human being and an effective
partner in treatment.
A general understanding of what has happened to the veteran is critical in this
process of developing a therapeutic relationship. Every provider working with combat
veterans should be advised to read some basic material on the experience of combat
and watch documentaries of the same. The provider must develop an understanding
that wartime and military service involves some of the most intense human
experiences and that those feelings of profound rage, fear, and grief can be an
expected part of these experiences. These feelings will be present in the interview
setting and must be met with respect and compassion. It is also helpful for the
professional to be careful not to assume that they have any understanding of the
military experience if they have not themselves served in the military and should not
be afraid to ask questions when they don’t understand something about the military
that the patient is referring to.
Family, religious organizations and community leaders can be helpful when dealing
with an unfamiliar culture and/or religion. It may also be appropriate to consult a
local cultural adviser. But particular attention should be paid to the individual’s own
beliefs and values, and confidentiality always must be maintained when getting input
from other sources. Patient’s beliefs should be seen in the context of their social,
religious, and cultural environment, and if need be, a trusted member of the person’s
faith or cultural group should be consulted.
PTSD Treatment
Refer to the evidence-based treatment strategies for PTSD, summarized in the
section on Pharmacotherapy and Psychotherapy Intervention of this guideline. The
section also includes medication tables that summarize indications/benefits,
contraindications/adverse effects, and usual dosages (see Module I-2).
Supportive counseling for PTSD has received little study to date and cannot be
endorsed as an evidence-based psychotherapeutic strategy. However, it has been
shown to be effective compared with no treatment and may be the sole
psychotherapeutic option available for the patient with PTSD who is reluctant to seek
specialty mental healthcare. It may be a useful engagement strategy to provide
temporary support, with the ultimate goal to convince patient to accept evidencebased treatment.
L.
Facilitate Spiritual Support [See Module I-2: D2- Spiritual Support]
M. Facilitate Social Support [See Module A: Annotation L2]
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4. RE-ASSESSMENT & FOLLOW-UP
N. Assess Response to Treatment
OBJECTIVE
Re-assess patient status following therapeutic intervention to determine response to
treatment, inform treatment decisions, and identify need for additional services. Reassessment should address PTSD symptoms, diagnostic status, functional status,
quality of life, additional treatment needs, and patient preferences.
RECOMMENDATIONS
1. At a minimum, providers should perform a brief PTSD symptom assessment at
each treatment visit. The use of a validated PTSD symptom measure, such as the
PTSD Checklist, should be considered (see Appendix C).
2. Comprehensive re-assessment and evaluation of treatment progress should be
conducted at least every 90 days, perhaps with greater frequency for those in
active treatment, and should include a measure of PTSD symptomatology (e.g.,
PCL) and strongly consider a measure of Depression symptomatology (e.g.,
PHQ9).
3. Other specific areas of treatment focus (e.g., substance abuse) should also be
reevaluated and measured by standardized measures of outcome.
4. Assessment of functional impairment should also be made, at a minimum, by
asking patients to rate to what extent their symptoms make it difficult to engage
in vocational, parental, spousal, familial, or other roles.
5. Consider continued assessment of:
•
Patient preferences
•
Treatment adherence
•
Adverse treatment effects.
DISCUSSION
Patients should be assessed at least every three months after initiating treatment for
PTSD, in order to monitor changes in clinical status and revise the intervention plan
accordingly. The interval of three months is suggested because many controlled trials
of first-line therapies for PTSD demonstrate clinically significant changes during this
time frame. Assessment of the following domains is advised: (a) symptom severity
and diagnostic status of PTSD, co-morbid mental disorders, and co-morbid medical
conditions; (b) functional status and quality of life in major areas of adjustment
(e.g., occupation, social and family relations, activities of daily living and capacity for
self-care, physical health needs, and spiritual fulfillment); (c) psychosocial needs
(e.g., financial and housing deficits); (d) patient satisfaction with treatment received
and preferences for type and amount of continued treatment; (e) compliance or
adherence with treatments provided; and (e) adverse side effects of pharmacological
or psychosocial treatments administered.
A number of interview and questionnaire methods are recommended for assessing
the diagnostic status and clinical severity of patients (see Annotation E). These
measures may be used to identify the presence/absence of major mental disorders,
including PTSD, as well as the degree of symptom severity. Much of this information
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is important to share with patients in assessing progress of treatment and making
collaborative decisions about future directions of care. The DSM-IV criteria for PTSD
domains (b – e) can be routinely measured using standard clinical interview
methods.
Regular Follow-Up and Monitoring
The use of pencil-and-paper measures of PTSD symptom severity, such as the PTSD
Checklist (PCL; see appendix C), should be considered. Scores on the PCL may be
plotted serially over time to create a longitudinal record of symptom severity and
may be helpful for recognizing environmental (e.g., renewed proximity to a
previously abusive parent) or seasonal (e.g., anniversary of a traumatic war event)
precipitants of PTSD symptoms.
Early Recognition of a Psychosocial Crisis and Referral to Specialists
Primary care providers may be the first to recognize that a patient with PTSD is
entering a psychosocial crisis. Depending on the severity and disability associated
with the crisis and the potential for harm to the patient or others, the primary care
provider may be obliged to obtain specialty mental health services, even if that
patient is reluctant to seek those services.
Coordination of General Healthcare
The traditional role of the primary care provider as the coordinator of various
disciplines and consultants involved in the treatment of any single patient is
especially relevant for the patient with PTSD. Particularly in patients with chronic
PTSD, medically unexplained symptoms or problems with substance use (including
smoking) may lead to the need for a wide range of specialists. Coordination of these
services is important to avoid confusion and unnecessary healthcare use.
O. Follow-Up
BACKGROUND
Because of risk of relapse following discontinuation of treatment in patients with
chronic PTSD, long-term treatment is often needed. Most patients with chronic PTSD
(defined by the DSM-IV as full-criterion symptoms lasting 3 months or more) should
be monitored for at least 1 year, with regularly scheduled follow-up in order to
prevent relapse.
The continued importance of psychoeducation and reinforcement of health-promoting
behaviors by the primary care physician is an important but generally neglected area
of public health.
RECOMMENDATIONS
1. If patient does not improve or status worsens, consider one of the following
treatment modification options:
a. Continue application of the same modality at intensified dose and/or
frequency
b. Change to a different treatment modality
c. Apply adjunctive therapies
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d. Consider a referral to adjunctive services for treatment of co-morbid
disorders or behavioral abnormalities (e.g., homelessness, domestic
violence, or aggressive behavior).
e. For patient with severe symptoms or coexisting psychiatric problems
consider referrals to:
•
Specialized PTSD programs
•
Specialized programs for coexisting problems and conditions
•
Partial psychiatric hospitalization or “day treatment” programs
•
Inpatient psychiatric hospitalization.
2. If patient demonstrates partial (insufficient) remission, consider one of the
following treatment modification options:
a. Before making any therapeutic change, ensure that “treatment
non‐ response” is not due to one or more of the following: not keeping
psychotherapy appointments, not doing prescribed homework, not taking
prescribed medications, still using alcohol or illicit substances, still
suffering from ongoing insomnia or chronic pain, not experiencing any
new psychosocial stressors, the original assessment did not overlook a
co‐ morbid medical or psychiatric condition
b. Continue the present treatment modality to allow sufficient time for full
response
c. Continue application of the same modality at intensified dose and/or
frequency
d. Change to a different treatment modality
e. Apply adjunctive therapies
f.
Increase level of care (e.g., referral facility, partial hospitalization,
inpatient hospitalization, residential care)
g. Consider a referral to adjunctive services for treatment of co-morbid
disorders or behavioral abnormalities (e.g., homelessness or domestic
violence).
3. If patient demonstrates improved symptoms and functioning but requires
maintenance treatment:
a. Continue current course of treatment
b. Consider stepping down the type, frequency, or dose of therapy
c. Consider:
•
Transition from intensive psychotherapy to case management
contacts
•
Transition from individual to group treatment modalities
•
Transition to as-needed treatment
d. Discuss patient status and need for monitoring with the primary care
provider
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e. Consider a referral to adjunctive services for treatment of co-morbid
disorders or behavioral abnormalities (e.g., homelessness or domestic
violence).
4. If patient demonstrates remission from symptoms and there are no
indications for further therapy:
a. Discontinue treatment
b. Educate the patient about indications for and route of future care access
c. Monitor by primary care for relapse/exacerbation.
5. Evaluate psychosocial function and refer for psychosocial rehabilitation, as
indicated. Available resources include, but are not limited to: chaplains,
pastors, Family Support Centers, Exceptional Family Member Programs, VA
benefits counselors, occupational or recreational therapists, Vet Centers, and
peer-support groups (see Module I-2 D: Psychosocial Rehabilitation).
6. Provide case management, as indicated, to address high utilization of medical
resources.
Table B-4 Treatment Response and Follow-Up
Step
Patient
Condition
Options
Reassess at:*
Initial
Treatment
•
Non response
to initial dose
•
•
•
•
•
•
Psychotherapy
and/or
SSRI/SNRI
2 weeks ** / 4
weeks
3
Failed second
trial of
antidepressant
•
•
•
•
8-12 weeks
4
Failed three
trials including
augmentation
•
•
•
Switch to another SSRI/SNRI or mirtazapine
Add psychotherapy
Augment with prazosin (sleep/nightmare)
Augment with atypical antipsychotic
1
2
•
•
Assess adherence
Increase dose
Consider longer duration
Switch to another SSRI or SNRI
Add psychotherapy
Consider referral to specialty care
Re- evaluate diagnosis and treatment
Switch to TCA
If no response consider nefazodone
(monitoring side effects), or phenalzine
(with careful consideration of risks)
Consider referral to specialty care
4 to 6 weeks
> 12 weeks
* Times are general guidelines and may vary considerably
**If treatment is not tolerable, switch to another antidepressant.
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DISCUSSION
Patient Does Not Improve or Status Worsens:
Re-assessment of patient's clinical status may occasionally show that symptoms
and/or functional status are failing to improve or are deteriorating in a sustained
way. It is important to determine if this static or deteriorated state is not simply the
result of a major life crisis unrelated to the therapy being administered.
The clinician must next determine if a patient’s unimproved clinical status reflects a
temporary exacerbation of symptoms expected to occur in the course of treatment
that will ultimately prove to be effective. For example, it is common for patients in a
range of trauma-focused therapies to experience some brief distress or symptom
exacerbation during initial phases of treatment where they focus on emotions
associated with traumatic memories. In this case, it is important to reassure the
patient about the natural course of recovery through treatment, assist him/her in
coping with symptoms, and enlist him/her in the decision to continue with the
current method of treatment. Increasing session contacts and or increasing the dose
of medications may provide needed support.
If the clinician and patient agree that the current treatment regimen is ineffective,
then a collaborative decision can be made to switch to a different modality. Another
approach is to hold the course of a current therapy, which may appear ineffective,
but apply adjunctive treatments (see Module I-2: PTSD Interventions). There is no
empirical evidence that supports the effectiveness of combination treatments for
PTSD. However, there is clinical consensus that some treatments can act
synergistically (e.g., combining coping skills and symptom management approaches
with exposure-based treatments).
Clinicians should consider changing the treatment plan by increasing the level of care
offered to patients. Levels of care for PTSD vary in intensity, including infrequent
visits administered in outpatient clinics, partial hospital programs, specialized
inpatient PTSD programs, PTSD residential care programs and domiciliaries, and
acute inpatient hospitalization. Patients who fail to progress in outpatient treatment
may benefit from a temporary transition to a higher level of care, followed by a
return to outpatient management after greater stabilization of symptoms has been
achieved.
Often, progress in PTSD treatment may be compromised by a concurrent behavioral
disorder (e.g., domestic violence), life crisis (e.g., homelessness), or uncontrolled
substance use disorder. Referral to ancillary clinical services should be considered for
patients for whom these problems emerge during the course of treatment, as
identified upon re-assessment.
Patient Demonstrates Improved Symptoms and Functioning but Requires Maintenance
Treatment:
Treatment may also lead to slight or moderate improvement that nonetheless leaves
the patient with significant distress and impairment in functioning. If the patient
demonstrates partial (insufficient) remission, consider one of the following treatment
modification options:
•
Continue the present treatment approach to allow sufficient time for full
response. This option might be worth considering when a treatment involves
acquisition of skills (e.g., cognitive restructuring or anxiety management). In
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such a case, it is possible that the patient may be in the process of learning
the skill, with the full impact of therapy dependent on increased practice and
skill mastery. Or, treatment may not have yet yielded its maximum potential
effect because of limited patient compliance; steps taken to increase
adherence to treatment prescriptions may accelerate responsivity to the
intervention.
•
If the moderate level of improvement obtained is less than would be
expected, given what is known about the patient and the treatment modality,
a change to a different treatment approach may be indicated.
•
In certain circumstances, a move to an increased level of care may be
warranted. For example, if current functioning remains poor despite some
symptom improvement or the patient stands to experience major
consequences for failure to improve more rapidly (e.g., marital separation), it
may be desirable to move from outpatient care to a higher level of care (e.g.,
residential care).
•
Improvement in PTSD symptoms may be inhibited by the presence of
untreated additional problems, such as substance abuse or exposure to
domestic violence. In such situations, it is important to initiate services for
these problems in order to improve the capacity of the PTSD treatment to
effect change.
•
Patients with partial PTSD may exhibit clinically meaningful levels of
functional impairment in association with their symptoms. Functional
impairment, rates of co-morbid disorders, and rates of suicidal ideation were
shown to increase linearly with increasing number of PTSD symptoms in one
study, and individuals with sub-threshold PTSD had increased suicidal
ideation, even after controlling for the presence of co-morbid major
depressive disorder (Marshall, 2001).
When Symptoms and Other Trauma-Related Problems Show Significant Improvement,
the Options Include the Following:
•
Discontinue treatment
•
Continue the course of treatment as is
•
“Step down” to a treatment requiring less intensive resources.
Clinician judgment, based on discussion with the patient, will be the basis of such a
decision.
When therapy has resulted in clinically significant improvement but the improvement
in functioning is recent and of limited duration, a continuation of the existing type
and intensity of treatment may be indicated if the clinician judges that time is
required for the patient to continue practicing new skills or to otherwise consolidate
treatment gains. This will be especially true if the clinician judges that a reduction in
level of therapeutic support would threaten treatment gains.
If treatment has produced clear benefit but the patient is continuing to show
treatment gains week-by-week, it may also be helpful to maintain the treatment as
is, in hopes of continued improvement. For many patients, some level of continuing
care may be indicated after more intensive help has produced improvements. A stepdown to less resource-intensive help can often be accomplished by changing
treatment type (e.g., from individual psychotherapy to periodic group support),
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reducing frequency of contacts (e.g., from once per week to twice per month
contact), or reducing treatment dose (e.g., medication).
If treatment has resulted in significant reductions in PTSD but related problems (e.g.,
anger, social isolation, guilt) have shown little change, it will be important to
consider adding treatment components to address those problems or refer the
patient for additional services.
Patient Demonstrates Remission from Symptoms:
When the patient demonstrates remission from symptoms and there are no
indications for further therapy, it is time to discontinue treatment. Discontinuation of
treatment may be anxiety-provoking for some patients who have come to depend on
the therapist. If this is the case, it may be helpful to discontinue treatment by using
the step-down approach noted above and gradually moving toward termination.
Whether treatment is ended gradually or more quickly, it is important to educate the
patient about expected levels of continuing symptoms, indicators of relapse or need
for future care, and ways of accessing care should the need arise. The patient can be
encouraged to talk with his or her primary care provider about the treatment
experience and enlist help in monitoring improvement.
Psychosocial Rehabilitation for All Patients with PTSD
Patients with persistent mental health symptoms and needs may benefit from a
range of assistance strategies provided by a range of disciplines. In addition to the
usual general health and mental health specialists, available resources include, but
are not limited to, case management, chaplains, pastors, Family Support Centers,
Exceptional Family Member Programs, VA Benefits Counselors, vocational counselors,
occupational or recreational therapy, Vet Centers, and peer support groups.
In the primary care setting, appropriate encouragement of patients to obtain a
mental health referral is important, even if patients are initially hesitant or reluctant
to seek it. Mental health referral options include outpatient psychology, social work,
or psychiatry clinics, depending on local resources and policies.
In specialty mental health settings, patients may be referred to specialized PTSD
programs or programs that focus treatment on important coexisting problems, such
as substance use disorder programs or programs for domestic violence or sexual
assault/abuse. Depending on the level of associated disability, complexity of
medication regimen, and level of threat to self or others, patients with persistent
PTSD symptoms and needs may require inpatient or partial psychiatric
hospitalization.
Providers referring from either the primary or specialty mental health setting should
consider the need for case management to ensure that the range of patient needs is
addressed and that follow-up contact is maintained.
See Module I-2: Interventions for PTSD D: Adjunctive Psychosocial Rehabilitation
Module B Management of PTSD
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MODULE I: TREATMENT INTERVENTIONS
Module I-1. EARLY INTERVENTIONS TO PREVENT PTSD ..................... 102
A. PSYCHOTHERAPY
104
A1. Psychological Debriefing
104
A2. Brief Early Cognitive-Behavioral Intervention
108
A3. Other Early Interventions
109
B. Early Pharmacotherapy Interventions to Prevent Development of PTSD 110
Module I-2. TREATMENT FOR PTSD..................................................... 114
A. Selection of Therapy for PTSD
B. PSYCHOTHERAPY INTERVENTIONS FOR PTSD
B1. Therapies that More Strongly Emphasize Cognitive Techniques (CT)
B2. Exposure Therapy (ET)
B3. Stress Inoculation Training (SIT)
B5. Imagery Rehearsal Therapy (IRT)
B6. Psychodynamic Therapy
B7. Patient Education
B9. Dialectical Behavior Therapy
B10. Hypnosis
B11. Behavioral Couples Therapy
B12. Telemedicine and Web-based Interventions
C. PHARMACOTHERAPY FOR PTSD
D. ADJUNCTIVE SERVICES
D1. Psychosocial Rehabilitation
D2. Spiritual Support
E. SOMATIC TREATMENT
E1. Biomedical Somatic Therapies
E2. Acupuncture
F. COMPLEMENTARY AND ALTERNATIVE MEDICINE
F1. Natural Products (Biologically Based Practices)
F2. Mind-Body Medicine
F3. Manipulation and Body-Based Practices (Exercise and Movement)
F4. Energy medicine
F5. Whole Medical Systems
F6. Other Approaches
I-3.
114
115
119
123
126
130
132
133
140
142
143
144
149
167
167
172
173
173
175
176
178
179
180
180
181
182
MANAGEMENT OF SPECIFIC SYMPTOMS .................................. 183
A. Sleep Disturbances
B. Pain
C. Irritability, Severe Agitation, or Anger
Module I: TREATMENT INTERVENTIONS
183
189
194
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Module I-1. EARLY INTERVENTIONS TO PREVENT PTSD
BACKGROUND
Several studies have examined the effectiveness of treatment interventions and
acute symptom management early (within 1 month) following a traumatic event in
preventing PTSD. This includes the use of various medications for the prevention of
PTSD and brief multiple sessions of psychotherapy.
This section summarizes the evidence supporting the recommendations for early
intervention discussed in Module A, Annotation J: Brief Intervention. Table I-1
summarizes the recommendations for interventions, and their potential benefit and
harm.
Table I - 1 Early Interventions after Exposure to Trauma (4 to 30 days after exposure)
Balance of Benefit and Harm
SR
A
B
C
D
I
Significant
Benefit
Some Benefit
Unknown Benefit
No Benefit
- Brief Cognitive
Behavioral Therapy
(4-5 sessions)
- Social support
- Psychoeducation
- Imipramine
and normalization - Propranolol
- Prazosin
- Other Antidepressants
- Anticonvulsants
- Atypical Antipsychotics
- Individual psychological
debriefing 
- Formal psychotherapy for
asymptomatic survivors 
- Benzodiazepines 
- Typical Antipsychotics 
- Group psychological
debriefing
- Spiritual support
- Psychological First Aid
= Potential harm; SR = Strength of recommendation (see Introduction)
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RECOMMENDATIONS
The following treatment recommendations should apply for all acutely traumatized
people who meet the criteria for diagnosis of ASD, and for those with significant
levels of acute stress symptoms that last for more than two weeks post-trauma, as
well as those who are incapacitated by acute psychological or physical symptoms.
1. Continue providing psychoeducation and normalization.
2. Treatment should be initiated after education, normalization, and Psychological
First Aid has been provided and after basic needs following the trauma have been
made available.
3. There is insufficient evidence to recommend for or against the use of
Psychological First Aid to address symptoms beyond 4 days following trauma. [I]
4. Survivors who present with symptoms that do not meet the diagnostic threshold
of ASD or PTSD should be monitored and may benefit from follow-up and
provision of ongoing counseling or symptomatic treatment.
5. Recommend monitoring for development of PTSD using validated symptom
measures (e.g., PTSD Checklist, other screening tools for ASD/PTSD).
6. Psychotherapy:
a.
Consider early brief intervention (4 to 5 sessions) of cognitive-based
therapy (CBT) that includes exposure-based therapy, alone or
combined with a component of cognitive re-structuring therapy for
patients with significant early symptom levels, especially those
meeting diagnostic criteria for ASD. [A]
b.
Routine formal psychotherapy intervention for asymptomatic
individuals is not beneficial and may be harmful. [D]
c.
Strongly recommend against individual Psychological Debriefing as a
viable means of reducing acute stress disorder (ASD) or progression
to post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). [D]
d.
The evidence does not support a single session group Psychological
Debriefing as a viable means of reducing acute stress disorder (ASD)
or progression to post-traumatic stress disorder, but there is no
evidence of harm (Note: this is not a recommendation pertaining to
Operational Debriefing). [D]
e.
Groups may be effective vehicles for providing trauma-related
education, training in coping skills, and increasing social support,
especially in the context of multiple group sessions. [I]
f.
Group participation should be voluntary.
7. Pharmacotherapy:
a.
There is no evidence to support a recommendation for use of a
pharmacological agent to prevent the development of ASDor PTSD.
[I]
b.
Strongly recommend against the use of benzodiazepines to prevent
the development of ASD or PTSD [D]
For discussion of use of medication for specific symptom management during the
early phase after trauma, see Module I-3: Symptom Management
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DISCUSSION
A. PSYCHOTHERAPY
A1. Psychological Debriefing
Psychological debriefing grew out of practices and experiences involving the military
of the United States and other Western nations. For soldiers exhibiting signs of acute
stress reaction (ASR) following combat-related traumatic events, the practice of
conducting early debriefings as part of a larger restoration approach appeared to
have significant impact on reducing more permanent disability.
The use of debriefings soon after exposure to traumatic events became part of
military doctrine in the United States and elsewhere, as well as part of standards for
early response to catastrophes for organizations, such as the Red Cross.
Unfortunately, there are very limited randomized control trial data involving
professional work groups (e.g. military units, first responders) trained to respond to
traumatic events, for which debriefing procedures were originally intended; these
procedures appear to be of little help, and are potentially harmful if used for
individual victims of trauma as prophylaxis for PTSD.
In considering the use of debriefing procedures as part of early interventions
following trauma exposure, a distinction between the general approaches of
psychological versus operational debriefings is in order, as well as debriefing of
individual victims of traumatic events and professional work groups trained to
respond to these events. Moreover, distinction should be made between debriefing
procedures that are targeted at all exposed individuals, irrespective of symptom
level, and, by contrast, briefer versions of empirically supported brief psychotherapy
interventions that are targeted at symptomatic individuals over a few sessions (see
Annotation A2: Brief Early CBT).
DEFINITIONS
Psychological Debriefing is a broad umbrella term used to describe a variety of
one-time individual and/or group procedures that involve review of a traumatic
event, by survivors or other impacted persons, for the purpose of actively
encouraging individuals to: (a) talk about their experiences during the event; (b)
recognize and verbalize their thoughts, emotions, and physical reactions during and
since the event; and (c) learn about coping methods. Specially trained debriefers
lead psychological debriefings following several protocols. Protocols generally
emphasize normalization of symptoms, group support, and provide some
psychoeducation and information about resources.
The term “Psychological Debriefing” does not include purely informational briefings or
debriefings used in professional military or other workgroups (e.g., psychological
education lectures or stress management briefings, such as Battlemind Training,
Battlemind Debriefing, or operational debriefings) discussed below.
Operational Debriefing is a routine individual or team review of the details of an
event from a factual perspective for the purpose of: (a) learning what actually
happened for the historical record or planning purposes; (b) improving results in
similar future situations or missions; and (c) increasing the readiness of those being
debriefed for further action. Operational debriefings are conducted by leaders or
specialized debriefers according to the organization’s standing operational procedure.
They are often referred to as “after action” reviews.
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Operational debriefings achieve important objectives of the organization, and there is
no reason that they should have any effect on reducing subsequent PTSD or other
long-term negative outcomes (nor is there evidence for this). Organizations that use
operational debriefings should train their debriefers to avoid causing unintentional
psychological harm (such as by encouraging personal disclosure), and to identify
individuals who need behavioral health follow-up.
Critical Incident Stress Debriefing (CISD) is a formalized structured review
method in a group format of the stressful experience of a disaster that includes
psychological debriefing. In fact, CISD was developed to assist first responders, such
as fire and police personnel, not the victims/survivors of a disaster or their relatives.
CISD was never intended as a substitute for therapy, was designed to be delivered in
a group format with professional work groups, and is meant to be incorporated into a
larger, multi-component crisis intervention system, labeled Critical Incident Stress
Management (CISM).
Critical incident Stress Management (CISM) incorporates several components,
including pre-crisis intervention, disaster or large-scale incident demobilization and
informational briefings, "town meetings," staff advisement, defusing, CISD, one-onone crisis counseling or support, family crisis intervention, organizational
consultation, and follow-up and referral mechanisms for assessment and treatment,
if necessary.
Battlemind Debriefing is a recently developed intervention, aimed specifically at
professional military teams/workgroups (like CISD) and designed to reduce any
potential iatrogenic effects of psychological debriefing noted in some studies;
specifically, less emphasis is given to personal disclosure and review of index events
(there is no requirement for individual disclosure; the focus of the debriefing is more
broadly on the transition from the entire deployment, rather than a single critical
incident), and more emphasis is given to enhancement of peer support. Battlemind
debriefing can be delivered in either small group or large group lecture formats.
Although Battlemind debriefing has been designed to be used by military units
immediately after critical incidents, it has never been tested in this setting. Two
published studies of Battlemind debriefing have focused on the post-deployment
timeframe in which the entire deployment and facilitating transition home from
deployment has been the focus of the intervention.
Individual Debriefing
Reviews and meta-analyses of studies of psychological debriefing as an early
intervention to reduce or prevent PTSD symptoms in individuals have concluded that
this technique is ineffective or potentially harmful (Rose et al., 2002). Of note, two
well-controlled studies with longer-term follow-up of individual patients have
suggested that this intervention may be related to a poorer outcome compared to
controls (Bisson, 1997; Mayou et al., 2000 which is a follow-up on Hobbs, 1996).
Bisson et al. (2008), in a summary of the evidence in the ISTSS guideline (2009),
also found no evidence to support the preventive value of individual debriefing
delivered in a single session. Of the 10 studies that compared psychological
debriefing with no interventions, 2 were positive, 5 were neutral, and 3 had negative
results. A meta-analysis conducted by Van Emmerick et al. (2002) included seven
studies and found that psychological debriefing interventions (non-CISD) and no
intervention improved symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder, but psychological
debriefing did not improve symptoms. Cuijpers et al. (2005) assessed the results of
studies examining the effect of prevention and found that the risk of post-traumatic
stress disorder was somewhat increased after debriefing but not significantly
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(RR=1.33), indicating a possible adverse effect. The RCTs to date cover only a
limited variety of traumatic stressors, subject populations, and debriefing protocols.
Most controlled studies have been of individually administered, one-time individual
debriefings of victims of motor vehicle accidents or crimes, such as rape. However,
findings have been consistent across trials.
Group Debriefing
The recommendations regarding group debriefing, either of victims of trauma or
professional work groups, is based primarily on the lack of effectiveness in studies;
there does not appear to be any evidence of harm. In a partially randomized trial,
Deahl et al. (2000) found no benefit of debriefing over assessment only in terms of
PTSD symptoms; however, the group receiving debriefing evidenced lower alcohol
misuse scores. The non-random assignment to groups weakens conclusions of this
study (Commanders blind to condition separated approximately 100 soldiers into two
groups based on schedules and responsibilities; the groups were then randomly
designated ‘debriefing’ or ‘control.’ Thus, outcomes are confounded by whatever
factors were used for separating soldiers into groups by commanders.) In another
study by Campfield and Hills (2001), robbery victims were randomly assigned to
immediate (less than 10 hours) or delayed (greater than 48 hours) CISD groups.
Immediate CISD produced more pronounced reduction in symptoms, but no control
group was employed, and thus no conclusions regarding efficacy relative to no
treatment can be made. This is particularly necessary with this intervention, given
that most people will recover spontaneously without any intervention and because of
the potentially iatrogenic effects found in some studies of CISD with individuals.
Other studies of group debriefing that have been conducted were of poor design in
terms of low sample size and/or non-random assignment to group and preclude
conclusions regarding efficacy (Eid et al., 2001; Richards, 2001). In an analogue
study with students, Devilly et al. (2008) found no advantage of debriefing following
a distressing video relative to a post-video snack.
Two more RCT’s are relevant to the discussion of group debriefing in combat units,
although not specifically at the time of the critical incident events. Adler et al. (2008)
conducted a randomized trial of Critical Incident Stress Debriefing (CISD) of groups
of soldiers deployed to a Kosovo peacekeeping mission. This trial randomised 1,050
soldiers from 19 platoons into 62 groups receiving one of three conditions:
Debriefing (23 groups), Stress Education (20 groups) and No Intervention (19
groups), and focused on the entire deployment period. The authors reported no
differences between groups on all behavioural outcomes, though the deployment had
resulted in relatively few critical events. In a second RCT by Adler et al. (2009) with
U.S. soldiers returning from Iraq who had been exposed to direct combat throughout
their deployment, results indicated that compared to a Stress Education control
condition, the Battlemind Debriefing had no overall effect on PTSD; within the
subgroup with highest levels of combat exposure, Battlemind Debriefing was no
more effective than the Battlemind Training lecture (given in both small group and
large group formats), with both treatments producing small improvements in PTSD
Check List (PCL) scores. A small but significant reduction in PTSD symptoms,
depression symptoms, and sleep problems was observed in Soldiers with the highest
levels of combat exposure for Battlemind Debriefing compared with standard stress
education, although similar benefits were observed for the two other Battlemind
training classroom interventions. Thus, given the similar efficacy of the Battlemind
Training lecture program, and the very small effect sizes observed, there is no
reason to recommend Battlemind Debriefing over the Battlemind lecture program.
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It remains possible that group interventions with pre-existing work groups (teams,
units, EMTs, co-workers) immediately after traumatic events may assist with
prevention of PTSD symptoms or with non-PTSD areas of improvement, such as
group cohesion, morale, and other important variables, but the empirical evidence
for this is insufficient due to poorly designed studies. Similarly, group interventions
may be useful for screening, education, and support. Trained personnel should lead
these group interventions and if group approaches are used, group participation
should be voluntary. Operational debriefings after traumatic events during on-going
military operations also share these considerations, but they have other objectives
that may override individual mental health protection. All operational debriefings
should select protocols and train the debriefers to minimize psychological harm to
the participants.
In conclusion, routine use of individual debriefing or the use of group psychological
debriefing for victims of trauma cannot be recommended. There is insufficient
evidence for the use of psychological debriefing for professional work groups
immediately after critical incidents, though no evidence of harm. The use of postdeployment psychological debriefing in the military is not recommended due to the
fact that other forms of psychological training were found to be generally equivalent;
there is no evidence of harm. Of importance is the fact that other early treatment
interventions have been found to prevent PTSD in symptomatic individuals (see
Annotation A2: Brief Early Cognitive-Behavioral Intervention). It appears appropriate
to continue to focus resources on identifying and treating those with symptoms
arising after trauma. The emphasis should be placed on the early detection of those
at risk of developing psychopatholgy and those early interventions that have been
found effective should be aimed at this group.
EVIDENCE TABLE
Evidence
Sources
1
Individual or group
psychological debriefing of
victims of traumatic events is
ineffective and may have
adverse effects
Bisson et al., 2009 (ISTSS)
Campfield and Hill, 2001
Cuijpers et al., 2005
Devilly et al., 2008
Hobbs et al., 1996
Mayou et al., 2000
Bisson, 1997
Rose, 2002 (Cochrane SR)
Sijbrandji et al., 2006
Van Emmerick et al., 2002
2
There is insufficient evidence
for or against psychological
debriefing of professional
workgroups (e.g. military, first
responders) in the immediate
aftermath of critical incidents
Carlier et Al., 2000
Deale, et al., 1994
Dolan et al., 1999
Eid et al., 2001
Richards, 2001
3
Psychological debriefing of
professional work groups weeks
or months after critical incidents
is not recommended
Adler et al., 2008
Adler et al., 2009
Deahl et al., 2000
LE
QE
NET
SR
I
Good
Zero
Small
D
Zero
Small
I
Zero,
Small
D
I, II-1 Fair
I
Good
LE =Level of Evidence; QE = Quality of Evidence; NET=Net benefit; SR = Strength of Recommendation (see Appendix A)
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A2. Brief Early Cognitive-Behavioral Intervention
Research suggests that relatively brief but specialized interventions may effectively
prevent PTSD in some subgroups of trauma patients. Several controlled trials have
suggested that brief (i.e., 4 to 5 sessions) cognitive-behavioral treatments,
comprised of education, breathing training/relaxation, imaginal and in vivo exposure,
and cognitive restructuring, delivered within weeks of the traumatic event, can often
prevent PTSD in survivors of sexual and non-sexual assault (Foa et al., 1995), MVAs,
and industrial accidents (Bryant et al., 1998 , 1999). Brief intervention with patients
hospitalized for injury has been found to reduce alcohol consumption in those with
existing alcohol problems (Gentilello et al., 1999). Controlled trials of brief early
intervention services targeted at other important trauma sequelae (e.g., problems
returning to work, depression, family problems, trauma recidivism, and
bereavement-related problems) remain to be conducted, but it is likely that targeted
interventions may be effective in these arenas for at least some survivors.
At present, it is unknown how much time should elapse after a traumatic experience
before cognitive-behavioral intervention is initiated (Litz & Bryant: in Foa 2009
[ISTSS]). If provided too early, individuals who may not need therapy will consume
helping resources. For this reason, trials have not commenced before 2 weeks after
the trauma (Bryant, 1998, 1999, 2003).
Target Population for Brief CBT
Studies that have targeted all trauma survivors, regardless of levels of stress
reactions, have been ineffective in preventing PTSD (Roberts et al., 2009b). Traumafocused CBT has been found to be effective in reducing and preventing posttraumatic stress symptoms in individuals who were symptomatic, especially those
meeting criteria for ASD (Roberts et al., 2009a; Stapleton, 2006). These
interventions have focused on the traumatic experience via exposure to memories
and trauma reminders, sometimes combined with cognitive therapy or other
behavioral interventions. One study has indicated that combined imaginal and in vivo
exposure is significantly more effective than pure cognitive restructuring in reducing
subsequent PTSD among individuals diagnosed with ASD (Bryant, et al., 2008a). This
is an important finding that requires replication.
Cognitive behavioral therapy was more effective in reducing symptoms than a selfhelp booklet or repeated assessment. The combination of an elevated initial
symptom score and failure to improve with self-monitoring was effective in
identifying a group of patients with early PTSD symptoms who were unlikely to
recover without intervention. (Ehlers, 2003)
Evidence Table
Evidence
1 Brief cognitive-behavioral intervention (4 to 5
sessions) may prevent PTSD in those reporting
clinically significant symptoms of acute posttraumatic stress
Sources
Roberts, 2009a (§)
Kornor, 2008
Bryant et al., 1998, 1999
Bryant et al., 2003, 2008a
2 Multisession early psychological interventions for Roberts, 2009b (§)
asymptomatic trauma survivors are not effective
and may be harmful
LE
I
QE
Good
SR
A
I
Good
D
LE =Level of Evidence; QE = Quality of Evidence; SR = Strength of Recommendation; §-Systematic
Review (see Appendix A)
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A3. Other Early Interventions
Efficacious early interventions have largely been structured as brief versions of
effective PTSD treatments. This suggests that other interventions may be effective in
preventing PTSD, but more research is needed to investigate other intervention
methods. Some non-CBT interventions have received research attention. For
example, brief structured writing has been found ineffective in preventing PTSD in
two studies (van Emmerik, et al., 2008; Bugg, et al., 2009). A memory restructuring
intervention failed to show preventive impact relative to a control condition (Gidron
et al., 2007). Likewise, providing self-help information as a preventive
psychoeducation strategy to prevent PTSD has not been found to be efficacious
(Scholes et al., 2007; Turpin et al., 2005)
Table I - 2 Brief Psychotherapy Studies to Prevent the Development of PTSD
Author, Year
Results
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)
Brief (5 sessions) CBT within 2 weeks >
Bryant, 1998a
Supportive counseling in preventing
PTSD
Brief (5 sessions) PE or PE + Anxiety
Bryant, 1999
mgmt > Supportive counseling in
preventing PTSD
Brief (5 sessions) CBT > Supportive
Bryant, 2003
Counseling in preventing PTSD
Brief (5 sessions) ET > CT > No Tx in
Bryant, 2008a
preventing PTSD
Resnick, 2007 Video intervention reduces PTSD vs.
standard care
Self-Help (SH)
no group differences between SH and
Scholes, 2007
no Tx
no group differences in PTSD between
Turpin, 2005
SH and no Tx
Structured Writing Therapy (SWT)
van Emmerik,
Efficacy of SWT was comparable to
2008
CBT
No differences between writing and self
Bugg, 2009
help (information only) groups
Memory Structured Intervention (MSI)
No differences between MSI and
Gidron 2007
supportive listening.
n
Trauma
LE
QE
NB
24
Civilian
I
Fair
Mod
45
Civilian
with ASD
I
Good
Sub
24
ASD after
mTBI
ASD
civilians
Sexual
assault
I
Good
Sub
I
Good
Sub
I
Good
Mod
Emergency
Room
N/R
I
Good
Zero
I
Fair
Zero
ASD and
PTSD pts
Emergency
room
I
Good
Mod
I
Mod
Small
traffic
accident
victims
I
Fair
Zero
90
140
227
141
125
67
34
ET = Exposure therapy; CT= Cognitive Therapy; Tx=Treatment
LE =Level of Evidence; QE = Quality of Evidence;
NB=Net benefit: Sub=Substantial; Mod=Moderate; Zero=–None or small
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B. Early Pharmacotherapy Interventions to Prevent PTSD
Prevention of PTSD
Few studies have examined the effectiveness of pharmacological treatment for acute
symptom management and PTSD prevention immediately following a traumatic
event. This includes the use of various agents for the prevention of PTSD
(propranolol, hydrocortisone, and gabapentin). Although of interest, none of these
approaches is yet advocated in standard treatment guidelines for PTSD (Stein 2009
[SR]). There is insufficient evidence to draw concrete conclusions or make specific
recommendations regarding the use of pharmacological agents for prevention of
PTSD. While prevention of ASD is ideal, there are currently no evidence-based
pharmacological treatment modalities to arrest symptom formation and prevent
progression to ASD during the first days and weeks following the traumatic exposure.
Once potential medical causes of neuropsychiatric impairment are ruled out and
other immediate needs are met (e.g., physical needs, practical needs for assistance,
normalization, and psychoeducation), then both medications and nonpharmacological interventions may be considered. The selection and effectiveness of
specific interventions administered acutely are not well supported in the literature.
Although there are no evidence-based pharmacological treatments for ASD, there
may be a role for pharmacotherapy to aid in the management of specific symptoms
(e.g., insomnia, pain, hyperarousal).
Use of Benzodiazepines
Historically, benzodiazepines were the primary agent in PTSD treatment, particularly
alprazolam and clonazepam. However, based on the limited data that are available,
benzodiazepine administration should be used with caution (or discouraged) both in
acute stress disorder (ASD) and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), due to lack of
evidence for effectiveness and risks that may outweigh potential benefits. Although
benzodiazepines have been frequently used “as needed” and continuously for anxiety
disorders, including to augment evidence-based treatment modalities in PTSD, there
is theoretical, animal, and human evidence to suggest that benzodiazepines may
actually interfere with the extinction of fear conditioning or potentiate the acquisition
of fear responses and worsen recovery from trauma. Benzodiazepine should be used
especially cautiously in combat veterans with PTSD because of the very high comorbidity of combat-related PTSD with alcohol misuse and substance use disorders
(upwards of 50 percent of co-morbidity) and potential problems with tolerance and
dependence. Once initiated, benzodiazepines can be very difficult, if not impossible,
to discontinue due to significant withdrawal symptoms compounded by the
underlying PTSD symptoms.
Gelpin et al. (1996), in an open-labeled study, treated patients who had recently
experienced trauma (within the past 18 days) and were experiencing excessive
distress (panic, agitation, or persistent insomnia) for up to 6 months with alprazolam
or clonazepam. These 13 patients were compared with a control group of recently
traumatized individuals matched for demographics and symptoms (using the Impact
of Events Scale). On follow-up, PTSD occurred at a significantly higher rate in the
benzodiazepine-treated group (9/13, 69 percent) than in the control group (2/13, 15
percent). Although the strength of the evidence is low (open-labeled study), the
study suggested that benzodiazepines may worsen outcomes in the acute period
following trauma, and the authors referenced animal data consistent with the
hypothesis that benzodiazepines may potentiate the acquisition of fear responses.
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Mellman, Bustamante et al. (2002) conducted a double-blind randomized controlled
study, during the acute period after trauma (mean 2 weeks after trauma). A shortterm (7 day) evening use of temazepam in patients with significant ASD/PTSD
symptoms was compared with placebo (11 patients in each group). The study
showed no benefits in preventing PTSD, and the trend was similar to the Gelpin
study, with 6 of 11 (55 percent) patients who received tamazepam developing PTSD,
compared with 3/11 (27 percent) who received placebo.
Davydow, (2008) in a literature review of the risk factors for developing PTSD after
serious trauma (requiring ICU treatment), found that greater ICU benzodiazepine
administration was one of the consistent predictors of PTSD.
Benzodiazepines can be effective against anxiety and insomnia, but they should be
used with caution in patients with ASD and PTSD because of the high frequency of
co-occurring substance abuse and dependence in patients with PTSD. The balance
between benefit and potential risks, including the risks of dependency and of
withdrawal after discontinuation, should be evaluated when considering
benzodiazepines in patients with acute stress reaction.
Sleep Disturbance
One of the most difficult symptoms to address in the immediate aftermath of
exposure to a traumatic event is sleep disturbance. Theoretically, the more sleep
impairment and trauma-related nightmares an individual continues to experience,
the more likely he or she is to continue to experience the symptoms of ASD and/or
subsequently develop PTSD. There is little evidence for the effectiveness of any sleep
aids in the immediate aftermath of trauma.
For Recommendations and discussion of the evidence for sleep disturbance,
see Module I-3: A. Sleep Disturbances
Ineffectiveness of Propranolol
Several studies have examined the use of propranolol, hydrocortisone, and
gabapentin for the prevention of PTSD (Pittman, 2002; Stein, 2007).
Four small and brief clinical trials were identified in the peer-reviewed medical
literature that evaluated the use of pharmacological treatments to prevent the
development of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptoms in traumatized
subjects (Pitman, 2002; Stein, 2007; Reist, 2001; Vaiva, 2003). All studies involved
immediate post-traumatic administration of propranolol, and one study also included
a trial of gabapentin. Two of the studies (Reist, 2001; Vaiva, 2003) were excluded
due to poor quality. Pitman (2002) reported a pilot study of 41 patients who were
randomized to begin, within 6 hours of the event, a 10-day course of double-blind
propranolol (n = 18) versus placebo (n = 23), 40 mg four times daily. Significant
improvement of symptoms was noted in the treatment group. Stein (2007)
conducted a double-blind, randomized controlled trial of 14 days of the beta-blocker
propranolol (n = 17), the anxiolytic anticonvulsant gabapentin (n = 14), or placebo
(n = 17), administered within 48 hours of injury to patients admitted to a surgical
trauma center. Of 569 accessible, potentially eligible subjects, 48 (8 percent)
participated. Although well tolerated, neither study drug showed a significant benefit
over placebo on depressive or post-traumatic stress symptoms.
McGhee et al. (2008) examined the relationship between PTSD prevalence and
propranolol administration in 603 soldiers injured in OIF/OEF, of whom 226
completed the PTSD Checklist-Military. Thirty-one soldiers received propranolol, and
34 matched soldiers did not. In propranolol patients, the prevalence of PTSD was
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32.3 percent vs 26.5 percent in those not receiving propranolol (P = .785). These
data suggest propranolol does not decrease PTSD development in burned soldiers.
Although some positive results were noted, the size and weak study designs of the
investigations do not allow for definitive conclusions regarding the value of these
medications in preventing the development of PTSD symptoms after traumatic
events.
Early Pain Intervention to Prevent PTSD
Acute pain caused by physical injury may by itself be a precursor for PTSD. Injury
that is also associated with traumatic exposure increases the risk for PTSD. When
pain is treated early and aggressively, patients may have the best chance of getting
better. Though many fear addiction from opioids, they can be an important part of
halting the pain cycle. Few studies have investigated the effect of pain reduction in
the early stages after injury and the development of PTSD.
Bryant et al. (2008c) examined the influence of acute administration of morphine as
protective against the development of PTSD in a consecutive sample of patients
admitted to hospital after traumatic injury (n = 155) . The patients who met criteria
for PTSD at 3 months (14 percent) received significantly less morphine than those
who did not develop PTSD; there was no difference in morphine levels in those who
did and did not develop a major depressive episode or another anxiety disorder. The
authors suggested that administration of morphine in the acute post-traumatic stage
may limit fear conditioning in the aftermath of traumatic injury and may serve as a
secondary prevention strategy to reduce PTSD development.
Holbrook et al. (2010) analyzed data for 696 military personnel (mostly male, mean
age about 24) who were hurt during OIF but who did not have serious traumatic
brain injury. About one-third (35 percent) of the injured personnel developed PTSD.
The finding was that those who had been administered morphine shortly after their
injury (60 percent versus 76 percent) were less likely to develop PTSD (ORs ranging
from 0.48 to 0.66, P<0.05 for all). Several factors, including severity and mechanism
of injury, need for amputation, resuscitation, and the presence of mild traumatic
brain injury, were adjusted for. Although causality could not be established, the
authors concluded that a reduction in perceived pain levels through the use of
morphine or other opioids, as part of trauma care, may lower the rate of PTSD onset
after major trauma.
Other Medications
One study that involved administration of cortisol at the time of cardiac bypass
surgery (Schelling, 2004) suggested that patients who received stress doses of
cortisol had lower PTSD symptom scores than a comparison group (that did not
receive cortisol) when questioned six months after surgery.
A crossover trial of 1 month of low-dose cortisol therapy evaluated 3 patients
diagnosed with PTSD (Aerni, 2004). The authors reported that each patient
demonstrated improvement on at least 1 self-reported PTSD measure. The study
was excluded from analysis for this guideline due to small numbers.
Conclusions:
There is a small amount of evidence that suggests that administration of cortisol at
the time of, or immediately after, a traumatic event may have a preventive effect on
the subsequent development of PTSD symptoms. Little evidence exists suggesting
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that gabapentin or propanolol are of value in preventing the development of PTSD
after trauma.
Due to the limited support of evidence, the use of medications in the early period
post-trauma to prevent PTSD cannot be recommended. Pharmacotherapy may be
considered to aid in the management of specific symptoms (e.g., addressing sleep
disturbance, irritability, or control of pain).
EVIDENCE TABLE
Evidence
Sources
LE
QE
Net Effect
SR
1
Pharmacotherapy prophylaxis for PTSD
Stein, 2006 [§]
I
Poor
-
I
2
Propranolol to reduce hyperarousal,
excessive arousal, or panic attacks
Pittman et al., 2002
Stein et al., 2007
Reist et al., 2001
Vaiva et al., 2003
McGhee et al.,2008
I
Fair
Small
C
3
Benzodiazepines for hyperarousal, excessive Gelpin et al., 1996
arousal, or panic attacks
Melman et al., 2002
Davydow, 2008
II-2
I
Fair
Small/Neg
D
LE =Level of Evidence; QE = Quality of Evidence; SR = Strength of Recommendation §=Systematic
Review (see Appendix A)
Table I - 3 Pharmacological Studies to Prevent the Development of PTSD
Author, Year
Propranolol
Pitman, 2002
Stein, 2007
Reist, 2001
Vaiva, 2003
Cortisol
Schelling, 2004
Aerni, 2004
Morphine
Bryant et al.
(2008c)
Holbrook et al.
(2010)
Results
n
Trauma
LE
QE
NB
Significant improvement post-acute
stress
No difference from placebo
(gabapentin or propanolol)
Recall of arousing story was
reduced
PTSD rate and symptoms lower in
the propanolol group
41
Any
I
Good
Small
48
I
Good
Zero
38
Severe
physical injury
N/R
I
Poor
EXC
19
MVA, assault
I
Poor
EXC
Hydrocortisone administered during
cardiac surgery reduced chronic
stress symptom scores
Low-dose cortisol for 1 month
reduces the cardinal symptoms of
PTSD
91
Bypass
surgery
Fair
Mod
Poor
EXC
Patients with PTSD received sig.
less morphine than those who did
not develop PTSD
Wounded morphine shortly after
their injury reduced development of
PTSD
155
3
Injury
II
Fair
Mod
Combat injury
II-2
Fair
Mod
LE =Level of Evidence; QE = Quality of Evidence;
NB=Net benefit: Sub=Substantial; Mod=Moderate; Zero –None or small; N/R=no reported; EXC= Excluded;
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Module I-2. TREATMENT FOR POST-TRAUMATIC STRESS DISORDER (PTSD)
A. Selection of Therapy for PTSD
In clinical practice, providers and patients alike are often faced with important
decisions relating to type, number, frequency, and dose of various psychotherapies
and pharmacological interventions. Therapies may be broadly divided into (1)
evidence-based psychotherapies (e.g., trauma-focused therapies or stress
inoculation training), (2) evidence-based pharmacotherapies (particularly SSRIs and
SNRIs), and (3) key adjunctive or supplemental treatment modalities.
Providers should explain to all patients with PTSD the range of therapeutic options
that are available and effective for PTSD. This discussion should include general
advantages and disadvantages associated with each therapeutic option (including
side-effects/risks, and time commitment required to complete the therapy). In
general, PTSD therapy research has provided sufficient evidence to recommend
medication or evidence-based psychotherapy as a first-line treatment. Among the Alevel evidence-based psychotherapy treatments, the research suggests that they are
much more equivalent in their effectiveness than many clinicians may realize. There
is insufficient evidence to suggest for or against combined medication and
psychotherapy over only one of the two approaches. Patient preferences and the
particular evidence-based treatments that the provider has the most
training/expertise in will often drive the initial therapeutic approach.
The level or intensity of care is guided by illness trajectory (degree of chronicity and
illness severity), observed outcomes, and previous therapies. Active follow-up is
used to determine the level of care each patient requires over time. The provider
along with the patient may determine that the first-line therapy will be
psychotherapy. If, after a period of treatment, the patient is not responding
adequately, the patient may be “stepped up” in therapeutic intensity by adding a
medication, such as a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) to the regimen of
ongoing psychotherapy, and reassessing whether additional measures need to be
taken to address co-morbid conditions. It may be helpful to coordinate care using a
collaborative care approach based in primary care that includes care management.
Although supporting evidence is lacking for collaborative care approaches, these
approaches have been shown to be useful in the management of depression, chronic
pain, chronic fatigue, and other conditions, and are now being tested for PTSD in
some military and VA treatment facilities.
RECOMMENDATIONS
1. Providers should explain to all patients with PTSD the range of available and
effective therapeutic options for PTSD.
2. Patient education is recommended as an element of treatment of PTSD for all
patients and the family members. [C]
3. Patient and provider preferences should drive the selection of evidence-based
psychotherapy and/or evidence-based pharmacotherapy as the first line
treatment.
4. Psychotherapies should be provided by practitioners who have been trained in the
particular method of treatment.
5. A collaborative care approach to therapy administration, with care management,
may be considered, although supportive evidence is lacking specifically for PTSD.
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B. PSYCHOTHERAPY INTERVENTIONS FOR PTSD
Psychotherapy interventions are aimed at reduction of symptoms severity,
improvement of global functioning, and improvement in quality of life and functioning
in social and occupational areas. Psychotherapy for PTSD may also have benefits in
improving co-morbid physical health conditions, but this is not specifically the focus
of treatment.
Table I-4 Psychotherapy Interventions for Treatment of PTSD
Balance of Benefit and Harm
SR
A
C
I
Significant Benefit
Trauma-focused
psychotherapy that
includes components of
exposure and/or
cognitive restructuring;
or,
Stress inoculation
training
Some Benefit
Patient Education
Imagery Rehearsal Therapy
Psychodynamic Therapy
Hypnosis
Relaxation Techniques
Group Therapy
Family Therapy
SR_= Strength of Recommendation (see Appendix A)
Unknown Benefit
None
WEB-Based CBT
Acceptance and Commitment
Therapy
Dialectical Behavioral Therapy
Effective Psychotherapies for PTSD
There are significant difficulties in categorizing the different evidence-based
psychotherapies that have been found to be most effective for PTSD. There are a
number of reasons for this difficulty, including the diversity of treatments available, a
lack of a common terminology to describe the same treatment components, the
specific ways in which similar components are manualized or packaged, and lack of
consensus between proponents for specific treatments.
The evidence-based psychotherapeutic interventions for PTSD that are most strongly
supported by RCTs can be considered broadly within in the trauma-focused
psychotherapy category or stress inoculation training. Trauma-focused
psychotherapies for PTSD refer to a broad range of psychological interventions based
on learning theory, cognitive theory, emotional processing theory, fear-conditioning
models, and other theories. They include a variety of techniques most commonly
involving exposure and/or cognitive restructuring (e.g. Prolonged Exposure,
Cognitive Processing Therapy and Eye movement Desensitization and Reprocessing).
They are often combined with anxiety management/stress reduction skills focused
specifically on alleviating the symptoms of PTSD. Psychoeducation is another
important component of all interventions. Other CBT interventions that are not
trauma-focused are less effective.
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Stress inoculation training (SIT) does not necessarily focus as explicitly on the
exploration of traumatic memories, it is included as a first-line alternative to traumafocused psychotherapies for treating PTSD. SIT, which was developed originally for
anxiety disorders and then modified for rape victims and later for PTSD, has been
extensively studied in the treatment of PTSD. It has also been compared head-tohead with trauma-focused psychotherapies, and has been shown to be effective in
assisting individuals with reducing trauma-related avoidance, anxiety, and
cognitions, and there is good evidence that it is equivalent in efficacy to the traumafocused psychotherapies.
In formulating the specific recommendations for psychotherpy, the working group
evaluated the empirical evidence, considering randomized trials as the highest level
of the evidence-based hierarchy. It should be noted that therapy provided in clinical
trial settings differs from therapy that is practiced in day-to-day care, and the
recommendations represent the techniques and protocols as they were studied and
reported in the RCTs.
Packaging of Manualized Approaches of Therapy
The working group recognized that despite various perspectives on how to categorize
the most effective PTSD psychotherapies, all of the modalities supported by a level-A
evidence likely have overlapping mechanisms of action. Trauma-focused
psychotherapies include exposure techniques that involve repetitive review of
traumatic memories and trauma-related situations, cognitive techniques that focus
on identification and modification of trauma-related beliefs and meanings, and/or
stress reduction techniques designed to alleviate PTSD symptoms and assist patients
in gaining control and mastery over the physiological reactivity.
SIT protocols that have been tested in clinical trials often include components of
cognitive restructuring or in-vivo exposure, and some SIT techniques (e.g. breathing
retraining, relaxation) are incorporated into virtually every other trauma-focused
psychotherapy that has been studied in RCTs. Consequently, it is difficult to
disentangle the relative contribution of SIT techniques in the efficacy of the other
trauma-focused psychotherapy treatments.
Components of efficacious interventions for PTSD, studied in clinical trials, have been
packaged in various ways. Most RCTs have manualized the techniques to ensure the
fidelity of treatment for use by the investigators. Some manualized approaches have
gained wide popularity, but there is no evidence that they are any more effective
than less accepted protocols that package the core components of trauma-focused
therapies in different ways. The core components used in the vast majority of A-level
interventions have involved combinations of exposure (particularly in-vivo and
imaginal/oral narrative), cognitive restructuring, relaxation/stress modulation
techniques, and psychoeducation. Very few studies have dismantled these individual
components to assess the relative efficacy of each technique independently. The
approaches that have been most extensively studied can be generally grouped into
four main categories based on the therapeutic components given the most emphasis,
or the specific way in which these components were packaged, although there is
overlap between these groups:
•
Exposure-based therapies (ET) emphasize in-vivo, imaginal, and narrative (oral
and/or written) exposure, but also generally include elements of cognitive
restructuring (e.g. evaluating the accuracy of beliefs about danger) as well as
relaxation techniques and self-monitoring of anxiety. Examples of therapies that
include a focus on exposure include Prolonged Exposure Therapy, Brief Eclectic
Psychotherapy, Narrative Therapy, written exposure therapies, and many of the
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cognitive therapy packages that also incorporate in-vivo and imaginal/narrative
exposure.
•
Cognitive-based therapies (CT) emphasize cognitive restructuring (challenging
automatic or acquired beliefs connected to the traumatic event, such as beliefs
about safety or trust) but also include relaxation techniques and
discussion/narration of the traumatic event either orally and/or through writing.
Examples include Cognitive Processing Therapy and various cognitive therapy
packages tested in RCTs
•
Stress Inoculation Training (SIT) (the specific anxiety management package most
extensively studied in the PTSD literature), places more emphasize on breathing
retraining and muscle relaxation, but also includes cognitive elements (selfdialogue, thought stopping, role playing) and, often, exposure techniques (in-vivo
exposure, narration of traumatic event).
•
Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) (extensively studied in
a large number of RCTs) closely resembles other CBT modalities in that there is
an exposure component (e.g. talking about the traumatic event and/or holding
distressing traumatic memories in mind without verbalizing them) combined with
a cognitive component (e.g., identifying a negative cognition, an alternative
positive cognition, and assessing the validity of the cognition), and
relaxation/self-monitoring techniques (e.g., breathing, “body scan”). Alternating
eye-movements are part of the classic EMDR technique (and the name of this
type of treatment); however, comparable effect sizes have been achieved with or
without eye movements or other forms of distraction or kinesthetic stimulation.
Although the mechanisms of effectiveness in EMDR have yet to be determined, it
is likely that they are similar to other trauma-focused exposure and cognitivebased therapies.
A brief description and summary of the supporting evidence for each of the above,
and other therapy approaches is included in the following Sections B1 to B12 of the
Discussion.
RECOMMENDATIONS
Treatment Options:
1. Strongly recommend that patients who are diagnosed with PTSD should be
offered one of the evidence-based trauma-focused psychotherapeutic
interventions that include components of exposure and/or cognitive
restructuring; or stress inoculation training. [A]
The choice of a specific approach should be based on the severity of the
symptoms, clinician expertise in one or more of these treatment methods and
patient preference, and may include an exposure-based therapy (e.g.,
Prolonged Exposure), a cognitive-based therapy (e.g., Cognitive Processing
Therapy), Stress management therapy (e.g., SIT) or Eye Movement
Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR).
2. Relaxation techniques should be considered as a component of treatment
approaches for ASD or PTSD in alleviating symptoms associated with
physiological hyper-reactivity. [C]
3. Imagery Rehearsal Therapy [IRT] can be considered for treatment of
nightmares and sleep disruption. [C]
4. Brief Psychodynamic Therapy can be considered for patients with PTSD. [C]
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5. Hypnotic Techniques can be considered, especially for symptoms associated
with PTSD, such as pain, anxiety, dissociation, and nightmares, for which
hypnosis has been successfully used. [C]
6. There is insufficient evidence to recommend for or against Dialectical
Behavioral Therapy (DBT) as first-line treatment for PTSD [I]
•
Dialectical Behavioral Therapy can be considered for patients with a
borderline personality disorder typified by parasuicidal behaviors. [B]
7. There is insufficient evidence to recommend for or against Family or Couples
Therapy as first-line treatment for PTSD; Family or Couples therapy may be
considered in managing PTSD-related family disruption or conflict, increasing
support, or improving communication. [I]
8. Group Therapy may be considered for treatment of PTSD [C]
•
There is insufficient evidence to favor any particular type of group therapy
over other types
•
Patients being considered for group therapy should exhibit acceptance for
the rationale for trauma work, and willingness to self-disclose in a group.
9. Consider augmenting with other effective evidence-based interventions for
patients who do not respond to a single approach.
10. Supportive psychotherapy is not considered to be effective for the treatment
of PTSD. However, multiple studies have shown that supportive interventions
are significantly more helpful than no treatment, and they may be helpful in
preventing relapse in patients who have reasonable control over their
symptoms and are not in severe and acute distress.
Note:
Approaches may also be beneficial as parts of an effectively integrated approach.
Most experienced therapists integrate diverse therapies, which are not mutually
exclusive, in a fashion that is designed to be especially beneficial to a given
patient.
Delivery of care:
1. Telemedicine interventions that involve person-to-person individual treatment
sessions appear to have similar efficacy and satisfaction clinically as a direct
face-to-face interaction, though data are much more limited than for face-toface encounters. [C]
a. Telemedicine interventions are recommended when face-to-face
interventions are not feasible due to geographic distance between patient
and provider or other barriers to patient access (e.g., agoraphobia,
physical disability); when the patient would benefit from more frequent
contact than is feasible with face-to-face sessions; or when the patient
declines more traditional mental health interventions.
b. Providers using telemedicine interventions should endeavor to maintain
and strengthen the therapeutic relationship, build patient rapport, stress
practice and assignment completion, and ensure adequacy of safety
protocols using similar techniques as they do in a face-to-face session.
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c.
Providers using technology-assisted interventions should take steps to
ensure that their work complies with the regulations and procedures of the
organization in which they are employed, legal standards, and the ethical
standards of their professions. Patient confidentiality and safety should be
monitored closely.
2. There is insufficient evidence to recommend for or against Web-based
interventions as a stand-alone intervention or as an alternative to standard
mental health treatment for PTSD. [I]
If used:
a. Clinicians should carefully review the content of any web-based materials
to ensure their accuracy and ethical application before recommending use
to patients.
b. Web-based approach may be used where face-to-face interventions are
not feasible (e.g., geography limits access to other forms of treatment) or
when patients decline more traditional mental health interventions. It has
also been suggested that web-based interventions may provide more
confidentiality than more traditional approaches.
c. Providers should regularly encourage patients to complete the intervention
and endeavor to maintain and strengthen the therapeutic relationship,
build patient rapport, stress practice and assignment completion, and
ensure adequacy of safety protocols. Availability of telephone contact for
initial assessment or other reasons (e.g. emergencies,
suicidality/homicidality, or follow-up of specific problems) should be
considered.
d. Providers using technology-assisted interventions should take steps to
ensure that their work complies with the regulations and procedures of the
organization in which they are employed, legal standards, and the ethical
standards of their professions. Patient confidentiality and safety should be
monitored closely.
DISCUSSION
B1. Therapies that More Strongly Emphasize Cognitive Techniques (CT)
Cognitive therapy (CT) techniques emerged principally from the work of Albert Ellis
(1962) and Aaron Beck (1964). Initially manualized for the treatment of depression,
CT techniques have been successfully adapted to the treatment of a diverse set of
psychiatric disorders, including PTSD (Freeman & Datillo, 1992; Freeman et al.,
1989; Scott et al., 1989) and have been manualized or packaged in various ways.
Several randomized controlled trials (RCTs) demonstrate the efficacy of CT
techniques for a wide range of patients with PTSD, demonstrating its use in treating
veterans with combat-related trauma, motor vehicle accident (MVA) survivors,
sexual or physical assault victims, and victims of natural disasters. Most RCTs have
examined CT as delivered in an individual therapy format, though some studies have
investigated group-delivered CT.
For purposes of this guideline, the primary goal of CT techniques is to improve mood
and behavior through a deliberate and explicit focus on modifying dysfunctional
thoughts, beliefs, and expectations. In theory, while behavioral change is a desirable
outcome of CT, the treatment components themselves do not explicitly or directly
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target behavioral patterns per se (however, it appears that even cognitive
interventions may involve exposure or behavioral components, for example,
discussing the meaning of a traumatic event inevitably involves exposing oneself to
the memories of that event). Likewise, while exposure-based interventions may
result in altered cognitions, exposure therapies, per se, do not involve an explicit
focus on cognitive restructuring procedures seen in CT. Nonetheless, in practice it is
virtually impossible to conduct cognitive trauma-focused therapy without also
involving behavioral or exposure-based components, as it is similarly virtually
impossible to conduct behavioral or exposure-based therapy without involving
cognitive therapy components.
CT is accomplished through a systematic and prescriptive process of (a) identifying
dysfunctional beliefs, (b) challenging and disputing these beliefs by examining the
evidence for or against them, and (c) restructuring or replacing these beliefs with
those that are more functional, logical, and reality-based. According to theories on
which CT is based, traumatic events may lead to distorted beliefs regarding personal
safety, self-efficacy, relative danger, future consequences of actions, and availability
of support. Over time, these maladaptive beliefs lead to or maintain symptoms of
PTSD and impair global functioning. The goal of CT for PTSD is to correct these
beliefs, which causes a decrease in symptoms and improves functioning.
The CT treatment protocol for PTSD typically begins with an introduction of how
thoughts affect emotions and behavior. The cognitive model of change is introduced
and the patient is given a detailed rationale and expectations for participation in
therapy are established. Treatment interventions are focused on identifying and
clarifying patterns of thinking. Several active techniques are used, such as capturing
and recording thoughts about significant events, weighing the evidence in support of
these thoughts, challenging distressing trauma-related thoughts, and replacing
dysfunctional thoughts with more adaptive ones. Through systematic assignments
both during and between therapy sessions, dysfunctional thoughts are examined,
challenged, and replaced. As thoughts become more logical and reality-based,
symptoms decrease and global functioning improves. CT also emphasizes the
identification and modification of distorted core beliefs about self, others, and the
larger world. CT teaches that improved accuracy of thoughts and beliefs about self,
others, and the world leads to improved mood and functioning.
DISCUSSION
Randomized controlled trials (RCTs) have shown that CT alone is an effective
intervention for patients with PTSD (Marks et al., 1998; Cottraux, 2008; Resick,
2008). CT is useful for identifying and modifying the many negative beliefs related to
a traumatic experience and can be used effectively to reduce distressing traumarelated thoughts (e.g., about survival guilt, self-blame for causing the trauma,
feelings of personal inadequacy, or worries about the future). Modifying thoughts
about these and other trauma-related issues can reduce PTSD symptoms and
improve mood and functioning. Numerous other trials support CT as a key
component of combination treatments.
CT techniques are often delivered as part of treatment “packages” that usually
include elements of exposure therapy, trauma-related education, and anxiety
management. For example, Cognitive Processing Therapy, which has been
manualized and validated for use with female sexual assault–related PTSD in women
(Resick et al., 2002) and in veterans (Monson, 2006), combines aspects of CT and
exposure therapy. CT can also be delivered in conjunction with a range of other
psychological therapies (e.g., EMDR and psychodynamic therapy). CT techniques
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may be an especially helpful treatment component when co-morbid depressive
and/or anxiety disorders are present.
Contraindications for CT have not been empirically established, but may include
psychosis, severe brain damage, or severe intellectual impairment.
Summary of Studies:
Twenty-one relevant clinical trials that evaluated the use of CT for PTSD were
analyzed. The trials investigated the effect of CT compared with no-treatment
conditions, such as placement on a waiting list, and compared with other therapies.
Both single-session therapy and long-term therapy were studied, with the longest
therapy lasting 30 weeks, plus additional sessions after the end of formal treatment.
Although therapists trained in standardized CT methods provided treatment, the
actual content of the therapy was often variable, as was the terminology used to
describe it. In these studies, although the patients in the control groups and study
groups generally improved over time, there was significantly greater improvement in
most treated groups, compared with control groups. The studies that enrolled
participants from the general population of PTSD patients examined a primarily
female population. There was one clinical trial that enrolled male disaster workers,
and one involving veterans.
Follow-up intervals ranged from immediate posttreatment to up to 2 years after
completion of therapy. Patient retention rates were generally similar to those
observed in studies of other types of therapy, but ranged from 52 percent to 100
percent; few studies were blinded, and most relied on self-reported symptom
questionnaires to provide data for analysis.
Nine relevant randomized clinical trials compared the effect of CT with that of a
nonactive treatment, such as waitlist control group, treatment as usual (TAU), or
repeated assessment (Beck, et al., 2009; Classen, Koopman, Nevill-Manning, &
Spiegel, 2001; Difede, et al., 2007; Duffy, Gillespie, & Clark, 2007; Ehlers, et al.,
2005; Foa, Zoellner, & Feeny, 2006; Monson, et al., 2006; Sijbrandij, et al., 2007;
Smyth, Hockemeyer, & Tulloch, 2008). Both group and individual CT appeared to be
effective in reducing PTSD symptoms. This was seen for brief, limited treatment
models, and for treatment programs taking several months to complete. Four studies
compared the effect of CT with that of therapies described as support, supportive
care, or Rogerian support therapy (Blanchard, et al., 2003; McDonagh et al., 2005;
Foa, Zoellner, & Feeny, 2006; Cottraux, et al., 2008). In these trials, CT was
reported to be superior to supportive care in reducing PTSD or in retaining patients
in therapy. Notably, in the Cottraux study, there were more drop-outs from the
Rogerian group due to worsening symptoms. Additionally, the CT group patients in
this study demonstrated sustained improvements in PTSD symptoms at two years
follow-up. Trauma-focused group CT and present-focused group therapy were
compared in a single study of Vietnam veterans (Schnurr, et al., 2003).
Approximately 40 percent of all participants showed significant change in PTSD
symptoms, but neither treatment was superior to the other.
The Trauma-Adaptive Recovery Group Education and Therapy (TARGET) model was
studied in a trial that compared it with CT in the treatment of substance abuse
patients (Frisman et al., 2008). Some improvement in PTSD symptoms was noted in
both groups, but TARGET therapy was reported to produce greater improvement in
sobriety self-efficacy. One clinical trial (van Emmerik, et al., 2008) compared CT with
a structured writing therapy that included three components: (a) writing in the first
person, (b) cognitive self-reappraisal of the writing, and (c) farewell and sharing the
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writing. The authors reported improvement in both study groups compared with a
wait list group, but detected no differences in efficacy between them.
Recently, researchers have attempted to dismantle treatments to examine their
efficacious components. Bryant et al. (2003b) reported that patients who received
both CT and ET demonstrated less avoidance, depression, and catastrophic
cognitions relative to patients who received ET only, while there was no difference in
PTSD symptoms between the groups. In a later four arm study to try to determine
what specific components of CBT were more effective, Bryant et al. (2008b)
compared pure in-vivo exposure alone; pure imaginal exposure alone; pure in-vivo
combined with imaginal exposure; and the combination of CR, in-vivo exposure, and
imaginal exposure. The combined treatment was most effective; supporting the
notion that effective therapy needs to include some element of cognitive
restructuring; unfortunately, there was no CR only group. In addition, none of these
treatment groups were reported to include relaxation, breathing retraining, or other
stress modulation techniques that are a standard part of virtually all of the ET and CT
packages.
Resick et al. (2008) found no difference between patients assigned to receive
Cognitive Processing Therapy (CPT) and patients assigned to receive only the
cognitive component of CPT. Interestingly, a third group that received only written
narrative exposure without any of the other CPT techniques performed nearly as well
,with no significant difference compared with full CPT or the cognitive component by
the time of the 6-month follow-up. In an attempt to isolate the active ingredients,
McDonagh et al. (2005) compared a treatment combining exposure and cognitive
therapy elements to both a waitlist control group and a group given PresentCentered Therapy (PCT), a form of problem-solving therapy designed to eliminate
the active ingredients found in CBT. Both treatment groups demonstrated improved
symptoms over the waitlist control group but did not differ between themselves.
Bisson (2007) performed a systematic review of the randomized trials of all
psychological treatments (Cochrane Collaboration Report). Treatments were
categorized as trauma-focused cognitive behavioral therapy/exposure therapy
(TFCBT); stress management (SM); other therapies (supportive therapy, nondirective counselling, psychodynamic therapy and hypnotherapy); group cognitive
behavioural therapy (group CBT); and eye movement desensitization and
reprocessing (EMDR). The results showed that TFCBT did significantly better than
waitlist/usual care, and other therapies. Stress management did significantly better
than waitlist/usual care. There were no significant differences between TFCBT and
SM, and there was no significant difference between other therapies and
waitlist/usual care control. Group TFCBT was significantly better than waitlist/usual
care. EMDR did significantly better than waitlist/usual care and other therapies.
There was no significant difference between EMDR and TFCBT or SM.
Conclusions:
There is good evidence that individual CT is effective in reducing PTSD symptoms,
and limited evidence that treatment gains persists for up to 2 years. Additional
research is needed to demonstrate the efficacy of CT delivered in a group format.
Given the contrasting outcomes of available studies comparing combinations and
dismantling components, there are insufficient data to conclude that CT is superior to
ET at this time.
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EVIDENCE TABLE
1
3
4
5
2
3
Evidence
CT is effective with civilian men and
women exposed to combat and noncombat trauma
CT is effective in treating co-morbid
substance abuse and PTSD
CT is effective in treating PTSD in
motor vehicle accident survivors
CT is effective in treating PTSD in a
group format
CT is effective with military and
veterans with combat- and noncombat-related PTSD.
CT is effective for women with PTSD
associated with sexual assault.
VA/DoD Clinical Practice Guideline for the
Management of Post-Traumatic Stress
Sources
Bryant et al., 2003b
Bryant et al., 2008b
Cottraux et al., 2008
Difede et al., 2007
Duffey et al., 2007
Ehlers et al., 2005
Foa et al., 2005
Lovell, et al., 2001
Marks et al., 1998
Sijbrandij et al., 2007
Smyth, Hockemeyer, &
Tulloch, 2008
vanEmmerik, Kamphuis, &
Emmelkamp, 2008
Frisman et al., 2001
LE
I
QE
Good
SR
A
I
Poor
C
Blanchard et al., 2003
I
Mod
B
Beck et al., 2009
III
Poor
I
Monson et al., 2006
I
Good
B
Chard, 2005
Foa et al., 2004
Foa, Zoellner, & Feeny, 2006
McDonagh et al., 2005
Resick et al., 2002
Resick et al., 2008
I
Good
A
QE = Quality of Evidence;SR =Strength of Recommendation (see Appendix A)
B2. Exposure Therapy (ET)
Exposure therapy protocols have a high level of evidence for treatment of PTSD, and
generally include the components of psychoeducation, imaginal or narrative
exposure, in-vivo exposure, and processing of thoughts and emotions. The most
commonly used protocol is Prolonged Exposure (PE), although various other
exposure protocols have been used. Protocols that provide only a portion of these
components (e.g. in-vivo exposure or imaginal exposure in isolation) show less
robust effect sizes (e.g., Bryant, 2008b). Imaginal exposure involves encouraging
the patient to revisit the experience in imagination, and recalling the experience
through verbally describing the physical and emotional details of the trauma. In vivo
exposure involves asking the patient to physically confront realistically safe but still
feared stimuli (e.g. driving a car after having been in a serious motor vehicle
accident). In vivo exposure is typically arranged in a hierarchical order based on the
perceived difficulty of confronting each stimulus. In addition, each item on the
hierarchy may be titrated to make it more or less difficult depending on the patient’s
progress in treatment. In the preceding example the patient might first sit in a car in
the passenger seat, and then in the driver’s seat, and then start the car, etc. The
patient repeats each situation until a reduction in the intensity of emotional and
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physiological response is achieved, at which point they move on to the next item in
their hierarchy.
DISCUSSION
RCTs have shown that Exposure Therapy (ET) helps men and women with PTSD
symptoms. RCTs of ET have demonstrated its efficacy in female victims of sexual and
non-sexual assault, motor vehicle accidents, male combat-related trauma, war
refugees, and mixed trauma populations. Several studies indicate that results are
highly comparable between exposure therapy and other forms of trauma focused
cognitive behavioral therapy (e.g., cognitive therapy, EMDR, stress inoculation
training). Findings regarding efficacy in (mostly Vietnam) combat veterans in VA
clinical settings are less consistent and the degree of improvement in PTSD
symptoms may be less pronounced, although the number of studies are very limited;
preliminary data suggest it is efficacious (Rauch et al., 2009).
The mechanism of ET is thought to be related to a reduction in negative emotions
(fear, anxiety, sadness, guilt) associated with their experience through repetitive,
therapist-guided confrontation of feared places, situations, memories, thoughts, and
feelings. ET usually lasts from 8 to 15 sessions depending on the trauma and
treatment protocol. In the most common form of ET, Prolonged Exposure therapy
patients are repeatedly exposed to their own individualized trauma stimuli, until their
arousal and emotional responses are consistently diminished. However, there are
various ways in which ET is packaged. ET providers can vary the pacing and intensity
of exposing patients to the most difficult details of their trauma based on the
patient’s emotional response to the trauma and to the therapy itself.
Several studies indicate that results are comparable between exposure with other
forms of cognitive behavioral therapy (e.g., cognitive therapy, EMDR, stress
inoculation training, or combinations). Variations on exposure therapy that have
promising results include written exposure and exposure in the context of a broader
narration of the patient’s life. For example, in a three arm dismantling RCT by Resick
et al. (2008), written exposure was compared directly with CPT (without the written
exposure component), and the full CPT program (including written exposure).
Treatment sessions for the written exposure only group consisted of two one-hour
sessions to provide overview of treatment and education, followed by five two-hour
sessions where the patient was asked to write for approximately 60 minutes alone
about their worst traumatic event, followed by reading this to the therapist who
provided supportive feedback without any of the cognitive restructuring techniques.
The written exposure group did nearly as well as both of the CPT treatment arms
(which consisted of 12 one-hour sessions), and on the six month follow-up there was
no significant difference between the three groups. This finding was replicated using
very different methods in a study by van Emmerick, et al. (2008) who found that a
structured writing therapy was equivalently efficacious in the treatment of PTSD as
cognitive therapy when both were compared with a no treatment control group.
These data strongly support the notion that a systematic writing narrative process
with therapist involvement may be just as effective in alleviating symptoms as any of
the more widely used cognitive therapy techniques.
Oral narrative therapy has also been shown to be highly effective in treating PTSD in
war-ravaged refugee populations. In one study of Rwandan refugees with PTSD and
severe war-related trauma (Neuner, 2008), lay counselors had patients construct a
narration of their life from birth to the present while focusing on detailed exploration
of specific traumatic experiences. This resulted in significant improvement in PTSD
symptoms, with effects comparable to any of the most cited CPT or PE studies in
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U.S. or European clinical samples. Increasingly, virtual (computer based) exposure
techniques and strategies are being utilized to accomplish exposure therapy.
However, to date, there are no randomized studies of virtual reality compared with
either wait list or standard exposure techniques that confirm its efficacy.
Another mode of delivery of exposure therapy that has been found to be effective in
two RCTs compared with wait-list control group is Brief Eclectic Psychotherapy
developed by researchers in the Netherlands. This treatment includes imaginal
exposure combined with relaxation, writing assignments, use of mementos from the
traumatic experience, exploration of meaning, a farewell ritual, and psychoeducation
(Gersons, 2000; Lindauer, 2005).
There have, as yet, been no randomized trials comparing ET with pharmacotherapy,
either alone or in conjunction with one another. However, two trials have examined
augmentation strategies. In one trial, the addition of ET following 10 weeks of
sertraline resulted in reduction in relapse and additional symptom reduction in those
patients who either failed to initially respond or partially responded to sertraline
(Rothbaum et al., 2006). In a second study, augmentation with paroxetine for
patients who partially responded to 6 sessions of ET did not result in additional
benefit (Simon et al., 2008).
As with any treatment, patients need to be screened for their suitability prior to
undergoing ET as it may temporarily increase their level of distress. Patients living
with the threat of domestic violence should not be considered for ET until their
security can be assured. ET has not been studied in patients with health problems
that preclude exposure to intense physiological arousal. Therefore, providers should
use caution when considering ET for patients with current significant suicide risk,
substance dependence, or current psychosis and especially in the elderly. Providers
should be aware of the possibility of increased distress as patients confront trauma
memories and reminders. As in all PTSD treatments, providers must take concrete
steps to prepare patients for the treatment (e.g., present clear rationale, explore
patient concerns, encourage realistic expectations, and build commitment to the
therapy) in order to reduce the risk of dropout.
EVIDENCE TABLE
1
Evidence
ET is effective in the treatment of
PTSD (compared to wait list,
present centered therapy, and other
control comparisons)
Sources
Basoglu ,2005, 2007
Cloitre, 2002
Cooper et al., 1989
Feske, 2008
Foa et al., 1991 & 1999a
Ironson et al., 2002
Keane et al., 1989
Marks et al., 1998
McDonah, 2005
Neuner, 2004, 2008 (life narration),
Schnurr,2007
Tarrier et al., 1999
Gersons et al., 2000
Lindauer et al., 2005
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LE
I
QE
Good
SR
A
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October, 2010
ET compared to other forms of
therapy shows equivalent results
2
VA/DoD Clinical Practice Guideline for the
Management of Post-Traumatic Stress
Bryant, 2003b
Bryant, 2008b
Foa et al., 1991 & 1999a
Foa, 2005
Marks et al., 1998
Paunovic & Ost, 2001
Power, 2002
Resick ,2002
Resick & Nishith, 2001
Resick, 2008 (written exposure)
vanEmmerik, 2008 (written
exposure)
Rothbaum, 2005
Schnurr, 2001
Tarrier et al., 1999
I
Good
A
QE = Quality of Evidence; R = Recommendation (see Appendix A)
B3. Stress Inoculation Training (SIT)
Several therapy protocols have been developed that focus on anxiety management
and coping skills training, including Stress Inoculation Training and Relaxation
Training. Stress inoculation training (SIT), is presented as a tool box or set of skills
for managing anxiety and stress (Hembree & Foa, 2000). This treatment was
originally developed for the management of anxiety symptoms and adapted for
treating women rape trauma survivors. SIT typically consists of education and
training of coping skills, including deep muscle relaxation training, breathing control,
assertiveness, role playing, covert modeling, thought stopping, positive thinking and
self-talk, and in-vivo exposure. The rationale for this treatment is that trauma
related anxiety can be generalized to many situations (Rothbaum et al., 2000). The
Expert Consensus Guideline Series: Treatment of Post-traumatic Stress Disorder
notes that anxiety management is among the most useful psychotherapeutic
treatments for patients with PTSD (Foa, Davidson et al., 1999a). A Cochrane metaanalysis found that stress management protocols were as effective as other TF-CBT
interventions and EMDR. Relaxation protocols that do not include all of the SIT
components have also demonstrated very encouraging results in several studies
(Marks et al., 1998; Taylor et al., 2003; Vaughn et al., 1994).
SIT is designed to “inoculate” people with PTSD from heightened stress responses
through teaching anxiety management skills which can include:
•
•
•
•
Relaxation training: teaching patients to control fear and anxiety through the
systematic relaxation of the major muscle groups
Breathing retraining: teaching slow, abdominal breathing to help the patient relax
and/or avoid hyperventilation with its unpleasant and often frightening physical
sensations
Positive thinking and self-talk: teaching the person how to replace negative
thoughts (e.g., ‘I’m going to lose control’) with positive thoughts (e.g., ‘I did it
before and I can do it again’) when anticipating or confronting stressors. This is
often combined with in-vivo exposure
Assertiveness training: teaching the person how to express wishes, opinions, and
emotions appropriately and without alienating others
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•
VA/DoD Clinical Practice Guideline for the
Management of Post-Traumatic Stress
Thought stopping: distraction techniques to overcome distressing thoughts by
inwardly shouting ‘stop’ (Foa et al., 1999b)
Many SIT protocols also include cognitive restructuring and other elements of
exposure therapy.
DISCUSSION
There have been two RCTs that have evaluated SIT and both found SIT to be
effective with women who have survived sexual assault. A study by Foa and
colleagues (1991) with 45 female sexual assault victims compared SIT, Prolonged
Exposure (PE) (see Annotation B2), Supportive Counseling (SC) and wait list control.
SIT was found to be the most effective treatment for short-term symptom
improvement and both SIT and PE were effective for long term improvement with PE
superior to SIT. Rothbaum (2001) reports that the “results suggested that all
conditions produced improvement on all measures immediately post-treatment and
at follow-up. At follow-up, clients who received PE continued to improve after
treatment termination, whereas clients in the SIT and SC conditions evidenced no
change between post-treatment and follow-up.” Another study with 96 female
sexual assault victims compared SIT, PE, combined SIT and PE, and wait list controls
(Foa et al., 1999a). The study found that all treatments were better than wait list
control for ameliorating PTSD severity at post-treatment and at the 6-month followup. Interestingly, although all three treatments were effective, the combined
treatment was not superior to either SIT or PE alone. Although this may be related to
the fact that clients in the combined treatment group received less PE-or SIT-specific
techniques than participants in the individual treatments, the most likely explanation
presented in the paper was an uncharacteristically low drop-out rate that happened
to occur in the PE-only group.
A study of 15 women by Kilpatrick et al. (1982) found SIT to be effective in reducing
rape-related fear and anxiety.
Motor vehicle accident survivors (Hickling & Blanchard, 1997) had a 68 percent
reduction of PTSD symptoms after involvement in a modified version of Foa et al.’s
SIT/PE combination program.
A controlled study comparing three different forms of relaxation (relaxation,
relaxation plus deep breathing, and relaxation plus deep breathing plus biofeedback)
for 90 Vietnam veterans found that all treatments were equally effective in leading to
improvement (Watson et al., 1997).
Vaughn, et al. (1994) found that relaxation training was superior to waitlist. Taylor
et al (2003) also found support for reduction of PTSD with a relaxation protocol
though the effects were less than for ET. In a head-to-head comparison study by
Marx (1998), relaxation training produced was nearly equivalent to PE.
EVIDENCE TABLE
1
Evidence
SIT is effective in the treatment for
PTSD.
Sources
Foa et al., 1999a
Foa et al., 1991
Kilpatrick et al., 1982
Rothbaum, 2001
LE
I
OE
Good
SR
A
LE=Level of Evidence QE=Quality of Evidence; SR= Strength of Recommendation (see Appendix A)
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B4. Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR)
Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) is a psychological
treatment designed to alleviate the distress associated with traumatic memories
(Shapiro, 1989a, 1989b). The objective of EMDR is to assist patients to access and
process traumatic memories while bringing them to an adaptive resolution (Shapiro,
2001).
In EMDR, the therapist collaborates with patients to: (1) access a disturbing image
associated with the traumatic event; (2) solicit the experience of body sensations
associated with the disturbing image; (3) identify an aversive self-referring cognition
(in concise words) that expresses what the patient “learned” from the trauma, and
(4) identify an alternative positive self-referring cognition that the patient wishes
could replace the negative cognition. The patient is then asked to hold the disturbing
image, sensations, and the negative cognition in mind while tracking the clinician’s
moving finger back and forth in front of his or her visual field for about 20 seconds.
In successive tracking episodes, the patient concentrates on whatever changes or
new associations have occurred. Eye movement episodes are repeated until there
are no new associations. Subsequent tracking episodes attempt to replace the
negative cognitive self-statement with the alternate positive cognition.
Between sessions, the patient is directed to keep a journal of any situations that
provoke PTSD symptoms and of any new insights or dreams about the trauma. The
number of sessions is dependent upon observed improvements and the number of
traumatic events experienced.
Within a session, standard self-rating scales document changes in the intensity of the
symptoms and the negative cognition, and the patient’s acceptance of the alternative
positive cognition. The patient reports following each set of eye movement episode
to inform the therapist of the strength of both negative and positive cognitions;
changes in cognitions, the images, emotions, or body sensations.
EMDR protocols allow for substitution of left-right alternating tone or touch as
modifications to the use of the eye movements, suggesting that it is not the eye
movements per se, but rather side to side alternating stimulation that is sought.
Studies attempting to ascertain the relative contribution of the eye-movement
component suggest that comparable outcomes are attained with or without eye
movements. These findings are seen as indicating that this aspect (i.e., eyemovements or alternating stimulation of any type) of the treatment protocol may not
be critical components.
Given the success of EMDR and the lack of support for the alternating stimulation
components, many theorists are considering the active ingredients for the observed
treatment gains. Specifically, EMDR is gaining acceptance as a treatment that shares
components with other existing, successful treatments. Derived from desensitization
strategies, EMDR counters avoidance of the traumatic memories and related cues by
repeatedly accessing the aversive traumatic images themselves, promotes emotional
processing by soliciting the emotional responses attendant to the aversive
memories; identifies a novel and alternative view of the traumatic experience in
conjunction with the patient, and then challenges the patient to consider the validity
or accuracy of the alternative perspective. With the focus upon physiological arousal
and reactivity, EMDR as a desensitization treatment also provides a component of
arousal management that is inherent in the treatment. Thus, EMDR at its most basic
level incorporates components of a) exposure to trauma related cues; and b)
processing of emotional responses. Each of these EMDR components involves efforts
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to mitigate strategic avoidance reactions theoretically viewed as maintaining current
symptomatology. EMDR also includes: c) elements of corrective and rational
restructuring of the patient’s views of the traumatic event; and d) self monitoring of
cognitive and emotional responses that are often viewed as key homework
components of cognitive behavior therapy in general, and e) a focus on heightened
physiological arousal and reactivity.
DISCUSSION
EMDR possesses efficacy for treating patients with PTSD: this conclusion is based
upon a thorough review of the literature in the treatment guidelines generated by a
task force for the International Society for Traumatic Stress Studies (Spates et al.,
2009) as well as by Division 12 of the American Psychological Association (APA) and
a Cochrane review (Bisson 2007). The United Kingdom’s NICE Guidelines for PTSD
(2005) also recommend EMDR as a treatment, supported by multiple efficacy
studies. While the results of numerous controlled published studies found medium to
large effect sizes for EMDR, there is no evidence that EMDR more efficient or rapid
than other forms of cognitive behavioral treatment. Similarly, suggestions that EMDR
is more easily tolerated than other psychological treatments remain unsupported
empirically.
Results of clinical trials, meta-analytic studies, review articles, and extant practice
guidelines suggest that EMDR successfully treats symptoms of PTSD when compared
to no treatment or delayed treatment conditions. When compared to other treatment
modalities, most studies reviewed indicated that EMDR possessed comparable
efficacy to other well-accepted cognitive behavioral treatments to include stress
inoculation training (SIT) and exposure therapies.
Maxfield and Hyer (2002) conducted a meta-analysis involving comparisons of EMDR
against wait list controls, cognitive behavior therapy involving exposure, and
treatment modalities described as other than CBT. Results indicated superiority of
EMDR to the wait list control condition. Also, the authors found an overall superiority
of EMDR compared to the other active treatment conditions, though they noted
sufficient variability that they judged the summed results to indicate comparable vs.
superior effectiveness of EMDR over other treatments.
Four studies specifically compared EMDR with Exposure Therapy (Lee et al., 2002;
Power et al., 2002; Rothbaum, et al., 2005; and Taylor et al., 2003). Lee et al.
(2002) and Power et al. (2002) found that EMDR had equivalent or better results
than CBT and was more efficient in that it worked faster. Taylor et al. (2003) did not
observe differential efficiency in their trial, but they also used therapist-assisted in
vivo work plus imaginal work. Rothbaum, et al. (2005) found symptom improvement
at post-test to be equivalent between EMDR and prolonged exposure. She writes in
the abstract, “PE and EMDR did not differ significantly for change from baseline to
either posttreatment or 6-month follow-up measurement on any quantitative scale.”
Although a measure termed “end-state functioning” was described as favoring PE,
this was a composite variable derived from three of the individual clinical scales that
were listed as primary outcomes, and it is likely that this variable had the effect of
magnifying the small non-significant differences on these individual scales when they
were combined.
Criticisms of EMDR stem from its theoretical premises to the necessity of its
components to achieve the desired outcome. There is limited support provided by a
set of seven studies that the inclusion of eye movement is beneficial, but most of
these are studies with analog populations, or in clinical populations exposed to a
traumatic event, but who didn’t necessarily develop full clinical PTSD (Andrade et al.,
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1997; Barrowcliff et al., 2004; Christman and Garvey, 2000; Kavanaugh et al.,
2001; Kuiken et al., 2001-2002; Sharpley et al., 1996; Wilson, Silver, Covi, &
Foster, 1996; and van den Hout et al., 2001). In aggregate, the data do not suggest
that eye movements or other form of kinesthetic stimulation are necessary. Spates
et al. (2009) reviews aptly the literature on dismantling studies in EMDR and
concludes that “the best provisional conclusion so far is that the bilateral stimulation
component of EMDR does not incrementally influence treatment outcome”.
Notwithstanding the lack of necessity for eye movements, when viewed within the
framework of all other trauma-focused CBTs, EMDR is equivalent.
There may be some basis for or against recommending this treatment depending
upon the type of trauma leading to PTSD. Specifically, studies of EMDR efficacy with
combat veterans have demonstrated variability, with several authors suggesting that
the treatment may be less than optimal for this condition (Boudewyns et al., 1993;
Jensen, 1994), and other studies suggesting the opposite (Carlson et al., 1998;
Devilly et al., 1999). However, it should be noted that only two of the cited studies
had a full course of treatment – all the others were short duration studies. Studies of
other CBT modalities and SSRIs have also shown inconsistent results in combat
veterans, and thus, based on current evidence, there is no reason to believe that
EMDR would not be as effective as other trauma-focused CBTs in this population.
Overall, there are rigorously controlled studies to support the conclusion that EMDR
is effective in the treatment for PTSD.
EVIDENCE TABLE
1
2
3.
Recommendation
EMDR is an effective treatment for
PTSD (compared with wait-list,
routine care, and active treatment
controls)
Eye movements are not critical to
the effects of EMDR
EMDR compared with ET show
consistent comparable results
Sources
Chemtob et al., 2000
Davidson & Parker, 2001
Maxfield & Hyer, 2002
Sheppard et al., 2000
Van der Kolk et al., 2007
Davidson & Parker, 2001
Spates et al., 2009
Davidson & Parker, 2001
Foa & Meadows, 1997
Ironson et al., 2002
Lee et al., 2002
Power et al., 2002
Rothbaum et al., 2005
Servan-Schrieber, 2000
Sheppard et al., 2000
Taylor et al., 2003
Van Etten and Taylor, 1998
LE
I
QE
Good
R
A
I
Fair
B
I
Good
A
LE=Level of Evidence QE=Quality of Evidence; SR= Strength of Recommendation (see Appendix A)
B5. Imagery Rehearsal Therapy (IRT)
Occurrence of nightmares as a problem is frequent (4 to 8 percent in the general
population and 60 percent in PTSD). Evidence shows that nightmares are associated
with psychological distress and sleep impairment. A conditioning pattern similar to
classic psychophysiological insomnia is produced in the nightmare-disturbed loop,
along with the negative cognition of “fear of going to sleep.” Studies using brief CBT
(desensitization and imagery rehearsal) have demonstrated a large reduction in
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nightmares. Many studies, including Forbes et al. (2001), suggest that PTSD is
associated with a propensity toward image, particularly where the post-traumatic
symptom picture is characterized by nightmares and flashbacks. IRT incorporates a
system to increase the imagery control.
IRT is aimed at changing the content of the patient’s nightmares to promote mastery
over the content-threat, thereby altering the meaning, importance, and orientation
to the nightmare. IRT includes elements of 1) psychoeducation about nightmares,
insomnia, and PTSD; 2) positive coping skill building (thought stopping, breathing,
grounding, writing/talking about issues and others); 3) cognitive restructuring; 4)
sleep hygiene, stimulus control, and sleep restriction; and 5) focused use of pleasant
imagery to replace negative imagery in recurrent nightmares. While discussion of
trauma imagery occurs, the model includes a de-emphasis of discussion of this
content in group sessions. The model has been tested primarily in a group format.
DISCUSSION
Several studies have examined IRT with some promising results. While not with a
primary PTSD population, Krakow et al. (1995) studied 58 chronic nightmare
sufferers who were randomly assigned to a treatment group (n = 39) or a wait list
control group (n = 19). The IRT group demonstrated significant reductions in
nightmares and improved sleep quality. Further, reduction in nightmares was a
significant predictor of improvement in sleep. The authors concluded that for some
chronic sufferers, nightmares may be conceptualized as a primary sleep disorder that
can be effectively and inexpensively treated with CBT.
Krakow et al. (2001a) randomly assigned 168 female survivors of sexual assault (95
percent of the sample met the criteria for PTSD) to receive IRT (n = 88) or wait list
(n = 80) and found that among completers, those women assigned to IRT had a
larger reduction in self-reported PTSD severity at the 3-month follow-up than wait
list. Further, the impact of nightmares was reduced and sleep quality improved. In a
pilot study of IRT with crime survivors with PTSD, Krakow et al. (2001b) reported
significant reductions in nightmares, improved sleep, and reduced PTSD severity at
the 3-month follow-up.
Forbes et al. (2001) completed an open trial of group IRT with 12 Vietnam veterans
with combat-related nightmares and PTSD. Veterans reported significant reduction in
nightmare frequency and intensity for the target nightmare. In addition, selfreported PTSD symptoms were significantly reduced. Follow-up data demonstrated
maintenance of gains at 12 months following the conclusion of treatment (Forbes et
al., 2003).
A recent large RCT comparing IRT with a group nightmare management treatment
(N=124) among Vietnam veterans with PTSD (receiving treatment in a VA clinical
setting) found that neither treatment produced significant or sustainable
improvement in overall PTSD symptom severity, nightmare frequency or sleep
quality (Cook et al, 2010). While much of the research to date has focused on IRT,
other versions of nightmare reduction programs, such as Emotional Relaxation and
Rescripting, are under empirical examination.
EVIDENCE TABLE
1
Recommendation
IRT can be considered for treatment
of PTSD (nightmare and sleep
disruption, in particular)
Sources
Krakow et al., 1995, 2001a 2001b
Forbes et al., 2001, 2003
Cook et al., 2010
LE
I
II-1
I
QE
Fair
SR
C
LE=Level of Evidence QE=Quality of Evidence; SR= Strength of Recommendation (see Appendix A)
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B6. Psychodynamic Therapy
BACKGROUND
In 1895, Joseph Breuer and Sigmund Freud based their Studies on Hysteria on the
proposition that traumatic life events can cause mental disorder (Breuer & Freud,
1955). This principle, radical for its time, grew in scope and application over the next
century and strongly influenced military psychiatry in World War I (Kardiner, 1941;
Rivers, 1918) and World War II (Grinker & Spiegel, 1945). Psychodynamic principles
were later applied to the psychological problems of Holocaust survivors (Krystal,
1968; De Wind, 1984), Vietnam veterans (Lindy, 1996), rape survivors (Rose,
1991), adult survivors of childhood sexual trauma (Courtois, 1999; Roth & Batson,
1997; Shengold, 1989), and survivors of other traumatic events (Horowitz, 1997).
Psychodynamic ideas have also helped providers manage the sometimes complex
issues that may surface in the relationship between survivor and psychotherapist
(Pearlman & Saakvitne, 1995; Wilson & Lindy, 1994). Psychodynamic
psychotherapies operate on the assumption that addressing unconscious mental
contents and conflicts (including those that may have been blocked from
consciousness as part of a maladaptive response) can help survivors cope with the
effects of psychological trauma. Psychological meanings of post-traumatic responses
are explored by examination of the fears, fantasies, and defenses stirred up by the
traumatic event.
DISCUSSION
Individual case reports comprise the bulk of the psychodynamic literature on the
treatment of psychological trauma, but a small group of empirical investigations are
available to support recommending that 2 psychodynamically informed treatments
can be considered as treatment options for PTSD.
Three RCTs have supported the efficacy of Gersons’s Brief Eclectic Psychotherapy for
reducing PTSD symptoms in police (Gersons et al., 2000) and community patients
with PTSD (Lindauer et al., 2005). This 16-week individual psychotherapy includes
both CBT (e.g., psychoeducation, imaginal exposure, cognitive restructuring) and
psychodynamic elements (focus on shame and guilt, attention to the patienttherapist relationship) and a farewell ritual at the end of treatment. At present, it is
unclear which elements of treatment are responsible for the improved outcomes.
Brom and colleagues (1989) conducted a RCT that compared Horowitz’s (1976) Brief
Psychodynamic Therapy to hypnotherapy, trauma desensitization, and a wait list
control group in the treatment of PTSD. They found that symptoms of intrusion and
avoidance improved significantly in each of the treatment groups but not in the
control group; no differences across the three treatments were observed.
While research evidence and clinical experience suggest that psychodynamic
psychotherapy can be effectively combined with other forms of psychotherapy and
with psychopharmacological interventions for depression (DiMascio et al., 1979; van
Praag, 1989), this approach has not been sufficiently researched in work with PTSD.
Psychodynamic ideas have, in some instances, been misapplied in clinical work with
trauma survivors, giving rise to concern about the creation or elaboration of socalled false memories (Roth & Friedman, 1997). It may be that trauma survivors are
particularly prone to this phenomenon, given their tendency towards dissociation. It
is important that clinicians be properly trained before undertaking psychodynamic
treatment of trauma survivors.
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Because of its focus on basic problems in interpersonal relationships, psychodynamic
psychotherapy may be useful in working with patients with complex PTSD. Clinical
case studies suggest that psychodynamic psychotherapy may be of particular value
in work with adult survivors of childhood sexual abuse (Courtois, 1999; Roth &
Batson, 1997; Shengold, 1989).
EVIDENCE TABLE
1
2
Recommendation
Some forms of psychodynamic
psychotherapy can be considered for
the treatment of PTSD
Psychodynamic psychotherapy for
patients with co-morbidity
Sources
Brom et al., 1989
Gersons, Carlier, Lamberts, & van
der Kolk, 2000
Lindauer et al., 2005
Courtois, 1999
Roth & Batson, 1997
Shengold, 1989
LE
I
QE
Fair
SR
C
II-2
Fair
C
LE=Level of Evidence QE=Quality of Evidence; SR= Strength of Recommendation (see Appendix A)
B7. Patient Education
BACKGROUND
Education of the trauma survivor is a core part of all PTSD treatments. Survivors
need to better understand what they are experiencing, how to cope with reactions or
symptoms, and what happens in treatment. It is also helpful to provide this
information to family members or to the patient’s significant others so that they can
more effectively support the patient’s recovery.
DISCUSSION
PTSD education involves teaching the survivor to label, recognize, and understand
PTSD symptoms (and other trauma-related problems) that he or she is experiencing,
providing simple advice regarding coping, explaining what he or she can do to
facilitate recovery, and describing treatment options. Education can help make
symptoms more understandable and predictable, decrease fear of symptoms,
increase awareness of coping options, and help survivors decide whether to seek
treatment or learn how to better participate in treatment.
Education should be one of the first steps of PTSD treatment. It can help establish
the credibility of the treatment provider, make treatment seem immediately helpful
to the patient, and help prepare the patient for next steps in treatment. In fact,
education should continue throughout PTSD treatment, sometimes in brief
discussions when the patient has questions and sometimes more systematically as a
formal helping activity. It can be delivered to individuals or to groups. Because those
with PTSD often have difficulties with concentration and memory, repetition of
educational information and provision of written information are important.
The content of PTSD-related education can include the following topics:
1. Nature of PTSD symptoms: It is often useful to help the survivor identify and
label the reactions that he or she may be experiencing, recognize that
emotional and physical reactions are very common (and not dangerous), and
understand that anxiety and distress are often “triggered” by reminders of the
traumatic experience, which can include sights, sounds, or smells associated
with the trauma; physical sensations (e.g., heart pounding); or behaviors of
other people. However, it is important to include comments on positive steps
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that the individual is taking, if appropriate, rather than providing a long list of
possible symptoms for review. Patients can also benefit in understanding how
PTSD symptoms have their basis in adaptive survival responses to lifethreatening events.
2. Practical steps to cope with trauma-related problems: Survivors can also be
educated about ways of coping with their PTSD symptoms in order to
minimize their impact on functioning and quality of life. While education about
coping is not a substitute for more systematic coping skills training, simple
information can also be useful. Survivors can be helped to distinguish
between positive and negative coping actions. Positive coping includes actions
that help to reduce anxiety, lessen other distressing reactions, and improve
the situation: relaxation methods, exercise in moderation, talking to another
person for support, positive distracting activities, and active participation in
treatment. Negative coping methods may help to perpetuate problems and
can include continual avoidance of thinking about the trauma, use of alcohol
or drugs, social isolation, and aggressive or violent actions.
3. Nature of the recovery process and PTSD treatment: Survivors will sometimes
have unrealistic or inaccurate expectations of recovery and may benefit from
understanding that recovery is an ongoing daily gradual process (i.e., it does
not happen through sudden insight or “cure”) and that healing does not mean
forgetting about the trauma or having no emotional pain when thinking about
it. Education about what happens in treatment is also important. This can
help build motivation to participate or persist in treatment.
Despite the ubiquity of education in PTSD treatment and a strong clinical consensus
as to the importance of such education, there is little evidence bearing on its impact
on chronic PTSD. Education has usually been a component of empirically supported
treatments, but it has not been carefully evaluated as a “stand-alone” treatment (nor
is it intended to be delivered in the absence of other treatment elements).
Psychoeducation was one of several components in each study, and the effect of the
psychoeducation component per se thus cannot be evaluated. There is, therefore,
insufficient evidence to conclude that psychoeducation alone is an effective
treatment for PTSD.
Three studies (Krupnick, 2008;Wallis, 2002; and Weine, 2008) compared group
interventions containing a psychoeducation component with WL. There were 9, 12,
and 16 sessions, and the sample sizes were 48, 83, and 166. Although each
intervention contained a psychoeducational component, the focus and content of the
group sessions differed across studies. In 2 studies, the group intervention
decreased PTSD symptoms compared with WL, while in the third; PTSD symptoms
were only evaluated as a mediator for effects on access to mental health services. No
study included a control condition for the psychoeducation component.
EVIDENCE
1
Recommendation
Psychoeducation is recommended as
a component of PTSD treatment
Sources
Foa et al., 1999
Lubin et al., 1998
Krupnick et al., 2008
Wallis, 2002)
Weine et al., 2008
LE
III
II-2
QE
Poor
Fair
R
C
LE=Level of Evidence QE=Quality of Evidence; SR= Strength of Recommendation (see Appendix A)
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B8. Group Therapy
BACKGROUND
The most comprehensive critical review of group therapy approaches for the
treatment of PTSD is Tracie Shea and colleagues’ chapter within the second edition
of the practice guideline Effective Treatments for PTSD (Shea, McDevitt-Murphy,
Ready, & Schnurr, 2009). Shea et al.’s discussion builds upon the previous edition’s
chapter by David Foy and colleagues (Foy, Glynn, Schnurr, Jankowski, Wattenburg,
Weiss, Marmar, & Gusman, 2000).
Shea and colleagues briefly review the use of group therapy for PTSD and note that
there is no empirical support for the belief that group treatment is superior to
individual treatment for trauma. The authors highlight potential benefits in Foy et
al.(2000) of using a group format, including efficiency in treatment provision and
development of support and understanding between group members that may
counteract isolation and alienation. They also distinguish group treatment
approaches by their emphasis on reintegration of the traumatic experience as an
integral change process. Trauma-focused groups assume integration of the traumatic
memory and modify the meaning of the trauma for the individual, while presentcentered supportive approaches aim to decrease isolation and increase sense of
competence. Shea et al. (2009) note that a focus on trauma may or may not be
reflected within any one of the various theoretical orientations of therapy utilized in
group approaches for PTSD, with the exception of supportive therapy, which tends to
avoid direct focus on trauma material.
Shea et al. (2009) characterize three overarching group therapy orientations:
Psychodynamic/Interpersonal/Process, Supportive, and Cognitive Behavioral. Most
groups share common strategies designed to provide a sense of safety, trust, and
develop cohesion among members. The three approaches do, however, differ in
significant ways in terms of techniques and strategies used (See Table I-5).
Foy and colleagues (2000) summarized factors identified in the literature as
important considerations for group treatment in general, including:
•
•
•
•
•
•
•
•
•
Flexibility in personal schedule
Ability to establish interpersonal trust
Prior group experience, including 12-step groups
Completion of a preparatory course of individual therapy
Similar traumatic experiences with other group members
Compatibility for gender, ethnicity, and sexual orientation
Willingness to abide by rules of group confidentiality
Not severely paranoid or sociopathic
Stable living arrangement
The value and necessity of these factors, however, have not been examined
empirically. Although most studies of group treatment for PTSD do focus on a
particular trauma type, the importance of homogeneity of groups in terms of trauma
type is an unanswered question. Trial participants in studies reviewed herein
commonly lacked previous individual or group therapy experience. Contraindications
for group therapy and exclusion criteria for trials of group treatment are usually
similar and include active psychosis, cognitive deficits, and current suicidal or
homicidal risk (Shea et al., 2009).
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Indications for Trauma Focus versus Supportive Groups (from Foy et al., 2000)
• Individual can tolerate high anxiety arousal or other strong affects
• No active suicidality or homicidality
• Substance abuse or other co-morbidities are under control
• Individual accepts rationale for trauma-uncovering work
• Willingness to self-disclose personal traumatic experiences
• No current life crises
Table I - 5 Group Therapy in PTSD (Shea et al., 2009)
Approach
Supportive groups
(Present-focused)
Psychodynamic/
Interpersonal
Process
(Trauma-focused)
Cognitivebehavioral therapy
groups
(Trauma focused)
Techniques/Strategies
- Aim to enhance daily functioning through provision of safety, trust,
acceptance, and normalization of symptoms and experiences
- Help individuals develop sense of mastery over problems via group feedback,
emotional support and reinforcement of adaptive behaviors
- Focus on current life issues rather than traumatic experiences
- Facilitate insight-based learning and change
- When an explicit focus on trauma is present, trauma material arises in a less
structured manner or covertly, and emphasis is on increasing awareness of
unconscious fears and maladaptive patterns
- Emphasize understanding the meaning of the trauma symptoms
- Help individuals gain insight and make connections into how current
difficulties may be linked to the trauma
- The Interpersonal Therapy (IPT) model helps groups members identify their
specific relationship difficulties and behavioral patterns that promote poor
functioning
- “Process” groups maintain emphasis on the immediate present experience of
the individual, their feelings and needs, and their interactions with other
members
- Include psychoeducation on trauma and skills training to manage anxiety and
arousal
- Trauma is directly addressed via repeated imaginal exposure techniques in
session and having individuals listen to audio recordings of their trauma
experiences as homework between sessions
- Maladaptive thoughts and beliefs are identified and modified or restructured
- In final sessions, relapse prevention strategies are planned and coping skills
reviewed
Although many of the studies of PTSD group treatment reviewed excluded
participants with active substance use disorders (SUD), others did not and several
specifically targeted co-morbid PTSD and SUD. How SUD affects PTSD outcomes in
group treatment has not been examined. Shea et al. (2009) point out that vicarious
traumatization is a concern within trauma-focused groups but that no published
evidence exists indicating that negative effects occur for some members in traumafocused group treatment as a result of vicarious traumatization and systematic
investigation of this possibility has not occurred.
RATIONALE
The empirical literature on group treatment for PTSD has grown since the publication
of the first edition of the Treatment Guidelines for PTSD, although there remain
methodological weaknesses in study designs, and there is no empirical evidence to
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support a conclusion that group treatment is superior to individual treatment for
trauma.
Nonetheless, it does appear that group-based treatment for individuals diagnosed
with PTSD is associated with improvements in symptoms of PTSD, and there is
growing belief that some unique attributes of the group treatment format provide
benefits that are superior to individual treatment for trauma. Identified benefits
include efficiency in treatment provision and development of support and
understanding between group members that may counteract isolation and alienation.
DISCUSSION
Summary of Studies:
In their review, Shea and colleagues (2009) included studies published beginning in
1998 that targeted populations with trauma, assessed symptoms of PTSD at preand posttreatment, and had at least 10 participants in the group therapy being
studied. Citing the small number of existing controlled studies, they did not require
that studies include only participants meeting criteria for PTSD. Our search for
relevant studies began with a review of studies included in Shea et al. (2009) and
was limited to studies in which the sample participants met DSM criteria for PTSD
and the active treatment was solely or predominantly in group format. Of the total
22 studies in Shea et al. (2009), we reviewed 14 that met these criteria, including
six randomized and two nonrandomized trials comparing at least one active
treatment group to a comparison or control condition, and six studies reporting preto posttreatment effects of a single group treatment condition. Our review also
included three studies not included in the Shea et al. (2009) chapter that provide
additional information to consider when weighing the effectiveness of group therapy.
Two were recently published and one of these focused on a Veteran sample (Beck,
Coffey Foy, Keane, & Blanchard, 2009; Ready, Thomas, Worley, Backscheider,
Harvey, Baltzell, et al., 2008). The third, although dated, was a randomized trial with
a Veterans sample (Rogers, Silver, Goss, Obenchain, Willis, & Whitney, 1999).
Fourteen of the total 17 studies examined cognitive-behavioral interventions; two
examined interpersonal therapy, and one psychodynamic.
Summary of Randomized Trials:
Eight of the 17 studies reviewed used randomized designs. Of these eight, six
examined cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) approaches. Only three of these six
compared the active treatment to a comparison condition that was not a wait-list.
Schnurr and colleagues (2003) investigated Trauma-Focused Group Therapy (TFGT)
in male Veterans of the Vietnam War in the largest and most rigorous study to date
of group therapy for PTSD (Schnurr, Friedman, Foy, Shea, Hsieh, Lavori, et al.,
2003). TFGT incorporates group-based psychoeducation, coping skills training,
imaginal exposure, cognitive challenging, and relapse prevention, with one-third of
all sessions devoted to individual work (Foy, Ruzek, Glynn, Riney, & Gusman, 2002).
Schnurr et al (2003) did not include individual sessions. TFGT was compared with
present-centered group therapy (PCGT), an approach designed to provide the
“nonspecific” factors of support and interpersonal connection inherent in group
treatment. Both groups experienced significant modest-sized pre- to posttreatment
improvement in PTSD, which were maintained at 12 months. The primary intentionto-treat (ITT) analyses did not find differences on PTSD or any other outcomes
between the group conditions (Schnurr, 2003). Rogers and colleagues (1999)
compared a single group session of flooding-based exposure therapy with a single
group session of eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR) in 12
Vietnam War Veterans who were undergoing inpatient treatment for combat-related
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PTSD. There were no differences between groups on PTSD symptoms posttreatment,
with both groups showing significant improvements. Lastly, Beck and colleagues
(Beck et al., 2009) randomized 44 individuals with PTSD related to motor vehicle
accidents (MVAs) to either Group Cognitive Behavior Therapy (GCBT) or a minimal
contact comparison condition. The GCBT was a 14-week treatment adaptation of
individual CBT to a group setting. At posttreatment, GCBT resulted in significantly
greater reductions in PTSD symptoms among treatment completers, with large
between group effect sizes and stability of gains at 3-months. Significantly more
patients in GCBT (88.3 percent) versus in MCC (31.3 percent) no longer met criteria
for PTSD at posttreatment.
Three of the trials, comparing CBT to a wait-list (WL) control, involved female
populations. Imagery Rehearsal Therapy (IRT) resulted in significantly more
improvement in PTSD, nightmares, and sleep, with large between-group effects on
the CAPS and PTSD Symptom Scale (PSS) and improvements maintained at 6
months (Krakow, Hollifield, Johnston, Koss, et al., 2001a; Krakow, Hollifield,
Scharader, et al., 2000). Large effects were also found on PTSD symptoms between
an affect management group and WL control where both groups also received
individual therapy and medication (Zlotnick, et al., 1997). A trial of women with
PTSD related to diverse traumas, as well as co-morbid panic disorder, indicated that
multichannel exposure therapy was superior to control (Falsetti et al., 2005).
Two small-scale randomized trials evaluated non-CBT approaches versus wait-list
controls in women with PTSD related to sexual abuse. Comparison of a traumafocused group and a present-focused group, both based on psychodynamic
principles, showed no differences for either relative to a wait-list control (Spiegel,
Classen, Thurston, & Butler, 2004) and even when combined, the composite
treatment group showed significantly more improvement only on non-PTSD
measures (Classen, Koopman, Nevill-Manning, & Spiegel, 2001). In contrast,
Krupnick and colleagues (Krupnick, Green, Miranda, & Stockton, 2008) found
significant effects with ITT analyses for Interpersonal Therapy group on PTSD,
depression, and interpersonal functioning, with a medium-to-large effect for PTSD.
Caveat regarding analysis of data from group-administered treatments:
In examining the effects of these group treatments, a significant and prevalent
methodological limitation warrants discussion. This limitation is that most studies
failed to use analytic strategies to account for clustering of observations within
treatment groups. Participants administered treatment in group format share a
common therapy environment, which may homogenize response to the treatment.
As explained by Baldwin and colleagues (Baldwin, Murray, & Shadish, 2005), studies
that do not take into account the magnitude of the dependency among observations
taken on members of the same group, or intraclass correlation (ICC), underestimate
the standard error of the treatment effect by pooling the effect of the group with the
effect of the treatment, so that even if treatment has no effect, an incorrect analysis
can suggest a treatment effect.
Out of the 17 studies reviewed herein, only two studies corrected for unit of analysis
and group ICC (Beck et al., 2009; Schnurr et al., 2003) and two studies accounted
for ICC (Creamer et al., 2006; Ready et al., 2008) in analyses, with the remaining
studies taking typical approach of treating the individual participants as the unit of
analyses and not correcting for the ICC. It is likely that true effects for group
treatments for PTSD are more modest than published effects.
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Conclusions:
The empirical literature on group treatment for PSTD has grown since the publication
of the first edition of the Treatment Guidelines for PTSD. However, most studies
continue to utilize small sample sizes, use wait-list controls, and fail to account for
clustering of observations in analyses. Advances in methodological rigor are typified
within studies by Schnurr and colleagues (2003), as well as Beck and colleagues
(2009). Field tests of interventions developed as part of clinical practice and
evaluated on large samples, such as those by Creamer et al. (2006) and Ready et al.
(2008), offer unique information yet pose numerous questions regarding complex
multi-phase approaches.
With these caveats in mind, our review suggests that, overall, group-based
treatment for individuals diagnosed with PTSD is associated with improvements in
symptoms of PTSD. Reported pre- to post-treatment effect sizes range from small to
large, but likely overestimate the true effect of the treatment. The amount of change
exceeded that of wait-list controls for most studies. Psychodynamic treatment
evidenced the weakest within-group effects (Classen et al., 2004). Interpersonal
therapy evidenced small to large effects (Cloitre & Koenen, 2001; Krupnick et al.,
2008). Significant support exists for cognitive–behavioral approaches, for both
combat veterans and in adults with histories of abuse, with effects ranging from
small to very large.
As noted above, few studies have directly compared different forms of group
therapy. The two that have, indicated equal benefit from trauma-focused and
present-centered supportive therapies in the primary analyses (Classen et al., 2004;
Schnurr et al., 2003). Relatedly, it remains unknown whether improvements found in
most studies of cognitive-behavioral or interpersonal/process-oriented treatments
are due to the strategies employed. Shea and colleagues’ (2009) examination of
within-group effect sizes pre to posttreatment found no evidence that groups
focusing on trauma provide superior outcomes than those who do not. Only one trial
examined a group adaptation of an existing and proven individual therapy protocol
(Beck et al., 2009). Reductions in PTSD from GCBD were comparable to those
obtained in previous studies of individual CBT but GCBT did not reduce co-morbid
anxiety and depression.
EVIDENCE TABLE
1
Recommendation
Consider group treatment for
patients with PTSD
Sources
Beck et al., 2009 
Classen et al., 2001; 
Cloitre & Koenen, 2001
Cook et al., 2006
Creamer et al., 2006 Donovan et al., 2001 Falsetti et al., 2005 
Krakow et al., 2000, 2001 
Krupnick et al., 2008 
Lublin et al., 1998
Najavits et al., 1998
Ready et al., 2008 Resick & Schniske, 1992
Rogers et al., 1999 
Schnurr et al., 2003 v
Spiegel et al., 2004
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LE
I
II
QE
FairPoor
SR
C
Page - 139
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2
Current findings do not favor
trauma-focused versus presentfocused group therapy
VA/DoD Clinical Practice Guideline for the
Management of Post-Traumatic Stress
Zlotnick et al., 1997; 2003
Schnurr et al., 2003
Classen et al., 2004
Shea et al., 2009
I
Good
I
LE=Level of Evidence QE=Quality of Evidence; SR= Strength of Recommendation (see Appendix A);-RCT
B9. Dialectical Behavior Therapy
BACKGROUND
Dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) is a comprehensive cognitive-behavioral
treatment for complex, difficult-to-treat mental disorders, specifically designed to
treat chronically suicidal individuals and patients with multi-disorders or borderline
personality disorder (BPD).
DBT has since been adapted for other seemingly intractable behavioral disorders
involving emotion dysregulation, including substance dependence in individuals with
BD and binge eating, to other clinical populations (e.g., depressed, suicidal
adolescents) and in a variety of settings (e.g., inpatient, partial hospitalization,
forensic).
While considerable evidence supports the use of exposure-based treatment for PTSD,
its utilization may pose some problems for patients where the symptoms of PTSD are
complicated. High rates of attrition, suicidality, dissociation, destructive impulsivity,
and chaotic life problems are reasons cited by clinicians for abandoning empirically
supported exposure treatment. Some practitioners have suggested that the approach
of DBT, designed to address many of these issues, offers useful strategies for
addressing the needs of patients considered poor candidates for exposure therapy.
The DBT approach incorporates what is valuable from other forms of therapy and is
based on a clear acknowledgement of the value of a strong relationship between
therapist and patient. Therapy is structured in stages, and at each stage a clear
hierarchy of targets is defined. The techniques used in DBT are extensive and varied,
addressing essentially every aspect of therapy. These techniques are underpinned by
a dialectical philosophy that recommends a balanced, flexible, and systemic
approach to the work of therapy. Patients are helped to understand their problem
behaviors and then deal with situations more effectively. They are taught the
necessary skills to enable them to do so and helped to deal with any problems that
they may have in applying those skills. Advice and support are available between
sessions. The patient is encouraged and helped to take responsibility for dealing with
life's challenges.
DISCUSSION
Although DBT is becoming more common as a technique for treating patients with
BPD, no clinical trials have been reported in the literature for the use of DBT in
patients with PTSD. The following studies concern patients with BPD who attempted
some form of self-injury; however, for patients with PTSD and co-morbid BPD, these
studies may be applicable to the treatment decision process.
In a meta-analysis of RCTs of “psychosocial and/or psychopharmacological treatment
versus standard or less intensive types of aftercare” for patients who had shown selfharm behaviors, Hawton et al. (2000) compared DBT versus standard aftercare and
found that DBT significantly reduced rates of further self-harm (0.24; 0.06 to 0.93).
The authors caution, however, that “there still remains considerable uncertainty
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about which forms of psychosocial and physical treatments of self-harm patients are
most effective.”
Verheul et al. (2003) reported on the effectiveness of DBT in a group of 58 female
BPD patients. For these women, DBT therapy “resulted in better retention rates and
greater reductions of self-mutilating and self-damaging impulsive behaviors
compared with usual treatment, especially among those with a history of frequent
self-mutilation” (Verheul et al., 2003). In the same study group, van den Bosch et al.
(2002) compared the results of therapy in women with and without co-morbid
substance abuse. They found that co-morbid substance abuse did not dilute the
effect of the DBT but that the DBT therapy had no effect on the womens’ substance
problems. Evans et al. (1999) compared the provision of self-help booklets alone to
six sessions of cognitive therapy linked to the booklets, which contained elements of
DBT (MACT), in 34 patients who had attempted self-harm. The authors reported that
MACT therapy led to a lowering of the number of suicidal acts per month and also
improved self-rated depressive symptoms.
Linehan and colleagues (1993) conducted a RCT of 39 women with BPD who were
randomly assigned to DBT or usual care for one year, then followed up at six and
twelve months following treatment. The authors reported that DBT patients had
significantly less parasuicidal behavior, less anger, and better self-reported social
adjustment during the initial 6 months and significantly fewer psychiatric inpatient
days and better interviewer-rated social adjustment during the final 6 months.
Telch et al. (2001) and Safer et al. (2001) expanded the DBT concept to treatment
of women with binge eating disorders. In both studies, women were randomly
assigned to DBT or a wait list (Telch study – 44 women; Safer study – 31 women),
and the authors’ results were similar; patients improved significantly in reduction of
binge/purge behaviors but did not differ on any secondary measures.
Bohus et al. (2000) treated 24 female chronically suicidal patients with DBT and
found significant improvements in ratings of depression, dissociation, anxiety, and
global stress and a highly significant decrease in the number of parasuicidal acts.
Gould et al. (2003) and Miller and Glinski (2000) identify DBT as a promising
treatment for suicide; however, they acknowledge the need for RCTs. In their
overview of the use of DBT, Koerner and Linehan (2000) also stress the need for
longitudinal studies to determine suicide rates and maintenance of treatment gains.
EVIDENCE TABLE
1
Evidence
DBT for patients with a borderline
personality disorder typified by
parasuicidal behaviors
Sources
Evans et al., 1999
Hawton et al., 2000
Linehan et al., 1993
Safer et al., 2001
Telch et al., 2001
van den Bosch et al., 2002
Verheul et al., 2003
QE
I
QE
Fair
R
B
LE=Level of Evidence QE=Quality of Evidence; SR= Strength of Recommendation (see Appendix A)
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B10.
VA/DoD Clinical Practice Guideline for the
Management of Post-Traumatic Stress
Hypnosis
BACKGROUND
Hypnosis is not held to be an ASD or PTSD therapy per se but may significantly
enhance the effectiveness of other therapies in their treatment or in the
management of a variety of related clinical conditions (Kirsch et al., 1998; Spiegel &
Spiegel, 1987). Historically, hypnotic treatments have played a role in the
management of shell shock, battle fatigue, and traumatic neuroses.
Hypnosis is defined by the APA as “a procedure during which a health professional or
researcher suggests that a client, patient, or subject experience changes in
sensations, perceptions, thought, or behavior. The hypnotic context is generally
established by an induction procedure” (Kirsch, 1994). An induction procedure
typically entails instructions to disregard extraneous concerns and focus on the
experiences and behaviors that the therapist suggests or that may arise
spontaneously.
Hypnosis should only be used by credentialed healthcare professionals who are
properly trained in the clinical use of hypnosis and are working within the areas of
their professional expertise.
DISCUSSION
Most of the case studies that have reported that hypnosis is useful in treating posttrauma disturbances following a variety of traumas lack methodological rigor, and
therefore strong conclusions about the efficacy of hypnosis to treat PTSD cannot be
drawn (Rothbaum, 2001).
Brom and colleagues (1989), in a RCT, showed that hypnosis and desensitization
significantly decreased intrusive symptoms, whereas psychodynamic therapy was
useful for reducing avoidance symptoms in patients with various types of posttraumatic symptomatology. In a meta-analysis, Sherman (1998) compared the
effects of the Brom et al. trial with those of other controlled studies and found that
the major advantage of using hypnosis may appear at long-term follow-up rather
than at the end of treatment: this is consistent with meta-analyses of hypnosis for
conditions other than PTSD (Kirsch et al., 1999).
Various studies, including meta-analyses, of the treatment of anxiety, pain,
repetitive nightmares, and other conditions often associated with PTSD imply that
hypnosis can substantially reduce the severity of these problems (Daly & Wulff,
1987; Jiranek, 1993; Kirsch et al., 1995; Eichelman, 1985; Kingsbury, 1993) and
enhance the effectiveness of psychodynamic and cognitive behavioral therapy
(Kirsch, 1996; Kirsch et al., 1999; Smith et al., 1980). Most of the literature on the
use of hypnosis for PTSD is based on service and case studies.
Shakibaei (2008) reported that hypnotherapy helped reduce both pain and reexperiencing of traumatic events among burn patients in a randomized control trial,
but it should be noted that patients meeting criteria for any acute psychiatric
disorder were specifically excluded from this study.
Abramowitz (2008) reports on a RCT in which hypnotherapy was compared to
zolpidem treatment for insomnia among 32 patients with combat PTSD who were
also suffering from insomnia. All patients were already taking an SSRI. He found
significant improvement in PTSD symptoms and sleep quality, number of
awakenings, ability to concentrate in the morning, and morning sleepiness in the
hypnotherapy group. Sleep time improved equally in both groups.
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There are a number of indications for using hypnosis in the treatment of PTSD:
1. Hypnotic techniques may be especially valuable as an adjunctive treatment for
symptoms often associated with PTSD, including dissociation, anxiety, pain,
nightmares, and insomnia.
2. PTSD p atients w ho m anifest a t least m oderate h ypnotizability m ay b enefit f rom
the addition of hypnotic techniques to their treatment.
3. Because confronting traumatic memories may be very difficult for some PTSD
patients, hypnotic techniques may provide them with a means to modulate their
emotional and cognitive distance from such memories as they are worked
through therapeutically.
There are a number of contraindications for using traditional hypnotic techniques in the
treatment of PTSD:
1. In the rare cases of individuals who are refractory or minimally responsive to
suggestion, hypnotic techniques may not be the best choice, because there is
some evidence that hypnotizability is related to treatment outcome efficacy
(Levitt, 1994; Spiegel et al., 1981 & 1993).
2. Some PTSD patients may be resistant to hypnotic treatment because of religious
concerns or other beliefs. If resistance persists, other suggestive techniques may
be tried, including emotional self-regulation therapy (ESRT), which is done with
open eyes and uses sensory recall exercises rather than a hypnotic induction
(Bayot et al., 1997; Kirsch et al., 1999).
3. For patients who have low blood pressure or are prone to falling asleep, hypnotic
procedures, such as “alert hand,” which emphasize alertness and activity rather
than relaxation, may be substituted (Cardena et al., 1998).
EVIDENCE
1
Recommendation
Hypnosis may be used to
alleviate PTSD symptoms
Sources
Brom et al., 1989
Sherman, 1998
Shakibaei et al., 2008
Abramowitz et al., 2008
LE
I
QE
Fair-Poor
R
C
LE=Level of Evidence QE=Quality of Evidence; SR= Strength of Recommendation (see Appendix A)
B11. Behavioral Couples Therapy
BACKGROUND
Perceived social support has been identified as an important resilience factor in
PTSD. Families report significant distress during the deployment cycle and high
prevalence of family problems, such as divorce. A number of family and couples
interventions have been developed, including Behavioral Family Therapy (BFT),
Cognitive-Behavioral Couples Therapy (CBCT), and Support and Family Education
(SAFE). However, there is as yet little support for these interventions as a first-line
treatment for PTSD.
DISCUSSION
Glynn et al. (1999) conducted a RCT of couples or family treatment for PTSD,
utilizing either an Exposure condition, Exposure followed by BFT, or a wait list
control. While both active treatment conditions improved on PTSD symptoms, BFT
did not significantly improve the PTSD symptoms, compared to the Exposure-only
condition. However, BFT did demonstrate improved problem solving skills relative to
the other two conditions.
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Monson et al. (2004, 2005) conducted a small, uncontrolled pilot study of seven
couples who received CBCT for PTSD. Significant improvements were found on PTSD,
depression, and anxiety for both veterans and wives. The improvement in
relationship satisfaction was more mixed, with no improvement for husbands but
greater improvement for wives.
Devilly (2002) examined a Lifestyle Management course for male veterans with PTSD
and their partners in a weeklong residential treatment. Both veterans and their
partners experienced significant reductions in anxiety, depression, and stress;
veterans also experienced significant reductions in PTSD. However, the effect size of
these changes was small, and symptom improvements were considered to be of
limited clinical importance.
No studies that evaluated behavioral couples therapy (BCT) for treatment of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) were identified. One study (Rotunda et al., 2008)
evaluated BCT for substance use disorder (SUD) in veterans with co-morbid PTSD.
The study was not designed to evaluate BCT for treatment of PTSD but did assess
psychological symptoms as a function of BCT. Although the effects of BCT on PTSD
symptoms specifically were not reported, the results suggested that BCT may reduce
general psychological distress and increase abstinence in male veterans with SUD
and co-morbid PTSD. However, caution should be taken in generalizing these
findings to a population with PTSD alone, given the body of literature demonstrating
that those with co-morbid SUD and PTSD are different from those with PTSD alone
on a number of important clinical variables (e.g., symptom severity, chronicity of
illness, treatment refractory).
No review or meta-analysis publications that addressed BCT, BFT, or CBCT as a
treatment for PTSD were identified.
EVIDENCE TABLE
1
Evidence
Sources of Evidence
LE
QE
SR
BFT did not significantly improve
the PTSD symptoms and was
inferior to other psychotherapies
Glynn et al.,1999
Monson et al.,2004
Devilly et al.,., 2002
I
Fair - Poor
I
LE=Level of Evidence QE=Quality of Evidence; SR= Strength of Recommendation (see Appendix A)
B12. Telemedicine and Web-based Interventions
B12-1. TELEMEDICINE INTERVENTIONS
BACKGROUND
Increasingly, a range of technologies are being adapted to enhance delivery of
mental health services. Such technologies include the telephone and
videoconferencing tools. Some technological applications assist human providers in
delivering their treatments to patients, as when videoconferences or telephones are
used to reach those for whom attendance may be difficult, or increasing convenience
for patients by eliminating travel to face-to-face sessions. Telephone-based services
– phone-based counseling, automated telephone assessment, and interactive
telephone applications – provide ways of extending assessment and treatment into
the natural environment.
DISCUSSION
A burgeoning body of rigorous research has demonstrated that psychotherapy for
treatment of depression and anxiety disorders, delivered either via
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videoteleconferencing (VTC) or via telephone, is not only effective but clinically
equivalent to face-to-face delivery (O’Reilley et al., 2007; Bee et al., 2008).
However, only one study to date has conducted that level of rigorous examination of
psychotherapy delivered to a PTSD population via VTC (Morland et al., 2009). This
study found that Anger Management Group therapy via VTC was as effective as faceto-face delivery in reducing anger symptoms in PTSD patients, both immediately
post-treatment and in short-term follow-up (i.e., 3 months). It also found that there
were no significant differences between the two modalities in satisfaction with
treatment, treatment credibility, attendance, homework completion, attrition, or
alliance among group members (Morland et al., 2009). However, patients receiving
treatment via VTC had lower therapeutic alliance with the group leader than those
who received face-to-face delivery.
Additional trials of VTC delivery of PTSD-specific treatments have also demonstrated
clinical effectiveness that was comparable to face-to-face delivery (e.g., Frueh et al.,
2007). However, due to the methodologies used (e.g., small sample size, nonrandomized), they were not able to test if VTC was actually equivalent to face-toface treatment. A non-random cohort study demonstrated that CBT delivered via
VTC improved PTSD symptoms at a level similar to face-to-face group delivery
(Germain, Marchand, Bouchard, Drouin, & Guay, 2009). A recent pilot study found
that Prolonged Exposure Therapy delivered via VTC was highly effective, safe, and
feasible (Tuerk et al., 2010).
There has been somewhat inconsistent evidence of process outcomes, such as
patient and provider satisfaction, patient treatment preference, comfort talking to
their therapists, and homework compliance, among the different trials comparing
VTC and face-to-face delivery of PTSD interventions. Although several studies have
found no significant differences between the two modalities, some have found that
in-person delivery has generated slightly better process outcomes (Morland, Pierce,
& Wong, 2004; Frueh et al., 2007).
The effectiveness of telephone delivery of case management and support has been
well proven for a wide variety of behavioral health interventions. However, it is much
less studied with PTSD patients. A small cohort study demonstrated that telephonebased monitoring and support improved patient satisfaction and entry into aftercare
compared to the treatment-as-usual condition (Rosen et al., 2006).
Mobile phone-based interventions present several advantages and capabilities (e.g.,
web-browsing, text messaging, software applications, etc.) that could address
common problems in delivering evidence-based treatments (Boschen, 2010);
however, the evidence to support these technologies in the PTSD interventions has
yet to be generated.
In summary, telephone delivery and videoconferencing can be effectively used to
overcome geographical barriers to mental healthcare. There is an abundance of
evidence that the modalities are safe and effective. There is preliminary evidence to
suggest that psychotherapy delivered via these modalities is as effective as face-toface care. As the field develops, additional research needs to examine how TMH
modalities affect the therapeutic process and also how mobile phone-based
interventions can be effectively used for PTSD treatment.
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EVIDENCE TABLE
Evidence
1
VA/DoD Clinical Practice Guideline for the
Management of Post-Traumatic Stress
Sources of Evidence
Telephone delivery and
O’Reilley et al., 2007
videoconferencing can be effectively Bee et al., 2008
used to deliver psychotherapy
Morland et al., 2009
Greene et al., 2010
Germain et al., 2009
LE
QE
SR
I
I
I
I
II-1
Mod
C
LE=Level of Evidence QE=Quality of Evidence; SR= Strength of Recommendation (see Appendix A)
B12-2. WEB-BASED INTERVENTIONS
BACKGROUND
Increasingly, a range of computer and Internet technologies are being adapted to
enhance delivery of mental health services. Web-based applications can deliver
elements of treatment (such as psychoeducation or skills training) in the absence of
provider contact or with reduced contact, and it is possible that access to help via
technologies may increase engagement in care by reducing the stigma associated
with treatment-seeking and increasing accessibility of care (e.g., for rural
populations, disabled persons, individuals without easy transportation access). To
date, research conducted with PTSD patients has been very limited, but services are
increasingly being delivered via these technologies. Newly developed technologies
can present significant challenges related to patient confidentiality and safety, and
they must be addressed carefully by both the individual providers and the
organization delivering these interventions.
DISCUSSION
Web-based interventions have very limited research for treatment of PTSD, although
several studies have been done to assess these techniques particularly in
traumatized individuals with general distress or subclinical PTSD symptoms. Webbased interventions may provide an effective delivery modality for CBT techniques
that can be considered in certain circumstances. However, these interventions raise
a number of privacy and confidentiality issues and have not been directly compared
with other evidence-based person-to-person CBT modalities that have been shown to
be efficacious.
The Internet provides a potential resource for delivery of both information
(psychoeducation) and more complex interventions. At present, while there is much
traumatic stress-related information available on the Web, the accuracy and
authoritativeness of the information can be difficult for consumers to determine.
Bremner, Quinn, Quinn, and Veledar (2006) reviewed the quality of 80 websites
related to psychological aspects of trauma and found that 42 percent of sites had
inaccurate information, 82 percent did not provide a source of content, and
41percent did not use a mental health professional in the development of the
content. The authors concluded that although abundant, websites providing
information about traumatic stress are often not useful and can sometimes provide
inaccurate and potentially harmful information to consumers of medical information.
Despite these concerns, prominent authoritative websites that are grounded in
research on psychological trauma and PTSD do exist, and many public organizations
and universities have developed online information resources related to posttraumatic stress (e.g., National Center for PTSD site: www.ncptsd.va.gov; Center for
the Study of Traumatic Stress, http://www.centerforthestudyoftraumaticstress.org/;
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International Society for Traumatic Stress Studies, www.istss.org; National Institute
of Mental Health, http://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/post-traumatic-stressdisorder-ptsd/index.shtml).
Patients and family members should be warned that information about PTSD that is
obtained from the Internet should be interpreted with caution. Internet sites from
established healthcare agencies or patient advocacy organizations are recommended
over chat rooms or non-specialist or commercial sites.
Several randomized controlled trials (RCTs) of web-based intervention treatment of
PTSD have been conducted. Taken together, they provide preliminary support for the
use of specific web-based CBT approaches. RCTs of web-based therapist-assisted
interventions (Knauvelsrud & Maercker, 2007; Lange, et al., 2001; Lange et al.,
2003; Litz, Engel, Bryant, & Papa, 2007) have demonstrated significant
improvements in trauma-related symptoms compared to wait list and supportive
counseling control conditions, with improvements being maintained over short-term
(i.e., 3-month) follow-up periods. The studies have focused largely on traumatized
individuals (clinical and non-clinical, such as university students) with generalized
distress or subclinical PTSD symptoms. Only one of the RCTs selected patients based
on a PTSD diagnosis. This study involved service members with PTSD related to the
Pentagon attack of September 11, 2001 or combat in Iraq or Afghanistan (OEF &
OIF) (Litz et al., 2007). However, the definition of PTSD was not based on a standard
structured clinical interview, and no difference was found in the intent-to-treat
analysis between the internet-based CBT and internet-based supportive therapy
control. In addition, this was not a pure internet-based intervention, as it involved a
2-hour initial face-to-face session in addition to periodic telephone contact. A metaanalysis of Internet interventions for anxiety (Reger & Gahm, 2009) found that the
effect sizes for PTSD symptoms fell in a large range (ES = .75; CI = .49 to 1.01),
but again, this was not based on studies of patients with PTSD per se but rather
persons who have sustained trauma and who have distress, subclinical PTSD, or, in
some cases, actual PTSD. Reger and Gahm (2009) also noted many methodological
problems with current studies and indicated that additional research is needed to
determine evidence for effectiveness.
In conclusion, there is insufficient evidence to recommend web-based interventions
for treatment of PTSD. The use of the Internet may have relevance as adjunctive
modalities in assisting distressed traumatized individuals and complementing other
evidence-based treatment interventions.
As with face-to-face treatments, it is important to recognize that existing studies
have looked at the effectiveness of specific web-based protocols. Thus, it cannot be
inferred that the studied modalities are generalizable to other web-based treatments.
Three of the studies cited above relate to one intervention, entitled Interapy (Lange,
et al., 2001; Lange et al., 2003; Knauvelsrud & Maercker, 2007). Interapy and
DeStress (Litz et al., 2007) share several intervention components, including
repeated writing about the traumatic experience. These evidence-supported webbased protocols are also therapist-assisted, with significant input from the provider.
For example, Interapy involves a mean per-patient total of 14 hours of therapist
time. Evidence from research on other mental health problems indicates that rates of
attrition from web-based interventions are high in the absence of provider contact to
facilitate completion. With regard to PTSD, there is relatively little evidence at
present for the effectiveness of Internet interventions that are completely selfadministered (e.g., Hirai & Clum, 2005).
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Regardless of intervention mode, it is important that those involved in technologyassisted intervention delivery take steps to ensure that their work complies with the
regulations and procedures of the organization in which they are employed, with
evolving legal standards, and with the ethical standards of their professions. Newly
developed technologies can present significant challenges related to patient
confidentiality and safety, and these must be addressed carefully by both the
individual providers and the organization delivering these interventions.
EVIDENCE TABLE
Evidence
1
Sources of Evidence
Insufficient evidence to recommend Knauvelsrud & Maercker,
web-based interventions for
2007
treatment of PTSD
Lange, et al., 2001
Lange et al., 2003
Litz, et al., 2007
LE
QE
SR
I
Poor
I
I
I
I
Poor
Poor
Good
LE=Level of Evidence QE=Quality of Evidence; SR= Strength of Recommendation (see Appendix A)
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C. PHARMACOTHERAPY FOR PTSD
There is growing evidence that PTSD is characterized by specific psychobiological
dysfunctions, which have contributed to a growing interest in the use of medications
to treat trauma-related biological effects (see Table I-6).
Studies of medication classes used in therapy for PTSD in individuals exposed to
trauma that assessed clinical outcomes were included in the review for this guideline
update. Evidence from randomized controlled trials (RCTs) was considered to be of
highest quality, followed by observational evidence. Other sources were evaluated
when randomized controlled trials and observational studies were not available or did
not provide adequate evidence. Studies were excluded if they did not evaluate
response to pharmacotherapy and if they did not evaluate individuals exposed to
trauma. The recommendations and tables address only drugs that have been studied
in RCTs and are available in the U.S. Other drugs that have not been reported in
published studies or were tested in open-label trials have not been considered and
therefore do not appear in the table (see Table I - 6).
Table I - 6 Pharmacotherapy Interventions for Treatment of PTSD
SR
A
B
C
Significant
SSRIs
SNRIs
Some Benefit
Balance of Benefit and Harm
Unknown
Mirtazapine
Atypical antipsychotics (as
adjunct)
Prazosin (for sleep/nightmares)
TCAs
Nefazodone [Caution]
MAOIs (phenelzine) 
Prazosin (for global PTSD)
D
Atypical antipsychotic
(monotherapy)
Conventional antipsychotics
Buspirone
Non-benzodiazepine
hypnotics
Bupropion
Trazodone (adjunctive)
Gabapentin
Lamotrigine
Propranolol
Clonidine
I
No Benefit
Benzodiazepines [Harm]
Tiagabine
Guanfacine
Valproate
Topiramate
SR = Strength of recommendation (see Appendix A); = Attention to drug to-drug and dietary interactions
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RECOMMENDATIONS
General Recommendations:
1.
Risks and benefits of long-term pharmacotherapy should be discussed prior
to starting medication and should be a continued discussion item during
treatment.
2.
Monotherapy therapeutic trial should be optimized before proceeding to
subsequent strategies by monitoring outcomes, maximizing dosage
(medication or psychotherapy), and allowing sufficient response time (for at
least 8 weeks). [C]
3.
If there is some response and patient is tolerating the drug, continue for at
least another 4 weeks.
4.
If the drug is not tolerated, discontinue the current agent and switch to
another effective medication.
5.
If no improvement is observed at 8 weeks consider:
a. Increasing the dose of the initial drug to maximum tolerated
b. Discontinuing the current agent and switching to another effective
medication
c. Augmenting with additional agents.
6.
Recommend assessment of adherence to medication at each visit.
7.
Recommend assessment of side effects and management to minimize or
alleviate adverse effects.
8.
Assess for treatment burden (e.g., medication adverse effects, attending
appointments) after initiating or changing treatment when the patient is
non-adherent to treatment or when the patient is not responding to
treatment.
9.
Since PTSD is a chronic disorder, responders to pharmacotherapy may need
to continue medication indefinitely; however, it is recommended that
maintenance treatment should be periodically reassessed.
10. Providers should give simple educational messages regarding antidepressant
use (e.g., take daily, understand gradual nature of benefits, continue even
when feeling better, medication may cause some transient side effects,
along with specific instructions on how to address issues or concerns, and
when to contact the provider) in order to increase adherence to treatment in
the acute phase. [B]
Monotherapy:
11. Strongly recommend that patients diagnosed with PTSD should be offered
selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), for which fluoxetine,
paroxetine, or sertraline have the strongest support, or serotonin
norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs), for which venlafaxine has the
strongest support, for the treatment of PTSD. [A]
12. Recommend mirtazapine, nefazodone, tricyclic antidepressants (TCAs),
amitriptyline and imipramine, or monoamine oxidase inhibitors (phenelzine)
for the treatments for PTSD. [B]
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13. Recommend against the use of guanfacine, anticonvulsants (tiagabine,
topiramate, or valproate) as monotherapy in the management of PTSD. [D]
14. The existing evidence does not support the use of bupropion, buspirone, and
trazodone, anticonvulsants (lamotrigine or gabapentin) or atypical
antipsychotics as monotherapy in the management of PTSD. [I]
15. There is evidence against the use of benzodiazepines in the management of
PTSD. [D]
16. There is insufficient evidence to support the use of prazosin as monotherapy
in the management of PTSD. [I]
Augmented Therapy for PTSD:
17. Recommend atypical antipsychotics as adjunctive therapy: risperidone or
olanzapine [B] or, quetiapine [C].
18. Recommend adjunctive treatment with prazosin for sleep/nightmares. [B]
19. There is insufficient evidence to recommend a sympatholytic or an
anticonvulsant as an adjunctive therapy for the treatment of PTSD. [I]
DISCUSSION
Treatment of PTSD Core Symptoms
The published pharmaceutical randomized clinical controlled trials (RCTs), which
target chronic PTSD symptoms, include drugs of the following drug classes:
antidepressants, (e.g., SSRIs, monoamine oxidase inhibitors, tricyclics, as well as
atypical antipsychotics), anticonvulsants, benzodiazepines, alpha-adrenergic
blockers, and others such as d-cycloserine.
Antidepressants
Antidepressants, particularly serotonergic reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), have proven
to be effective in treating PTSD and are recommended as first-line agents in
treatment guidelines (Davidson et al., 2001; Brady et al., 2000; Foa et al., 2000;
Foa et al., 1999). Over 3000 patients have participated in studies of paroxetine,
sertraline, and fluoxetine. Sertraline and paroxetine have FDA approval for PTSD.
SSRIs have a broad spectrum of action, effectively reducing all three core symptoms
of PTSD. As a class, they are generally well tolerated.
The Cochrane Collaboration published a review of the evidence regarding
pharmacological treatments in PTSD (Stein et al., 2006). They found 35 short-term
RCTs of PTSD (4597 participants) to review, three of which contained a maintenance
component; five of those were unpublished. The authors concluded that while no
clear evidence exists to show that any particular class of medication is more effective
or better tolerated than any other, the greatest number of trials showing efficacy to
date, as well as the largest, has been with the SSRIs. On the basis of the data, the
review recommends SSRIs as first-line agents in the pharmacotherapy of PTSD and
supports their value in long-term treatment.
A meta-analysis of 4 RCTs that compared SSRIs to placebo without regard to
diagnostic criteria, duration, severity, or co-morbid diagnoses reported that
treatment favored the drug in all 4 trials; however, only one study (with 183
subjects) reached statistical significance. Two RCTs maintained treatment with an
SSRI for 64 weeks and 40 weeks, respectively. One study reported that 50 percent
of patients experienced worsening symptoms when placebo was substituted for
active drug, and in the second report, patients on placebo were 6.4 times more likely
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to relapse compared to the drug group. Although some patients may respond to an
antidepressant trial within 3 months, some patients may require more than 12 weeks
to respond to SSRIs (Martenyi et al., 2002).
Results with SSRIs are conflicting with respect to wartime-related PTSD. Martenyi et
al. (2002), with combat veterans of recent wars, found fluoxetine to be significantly
superior to placebo. Martenyi (2007) reported a negative fixed-dose trial with
fluoxetine. In addition, Friedman et al. (2007), testing Vietnam vets with chronic
PTSD in a VA hospital setting, observed no difference between sertraline and
placebo. One should not extrapolate the findings of Friedman’s paper to all veterans,
as veterans with chronic PTSD who remain symptomatic after decades of VA
treatment comprise a chronic treatment refractory cohort that is not representative
of all male combat veterans with PTSD.
The SSRIs citalopram, escitalopram, and fluvoxamine have been not been studied
sufficiently to warrant a recommendation.
Venlafaxine, an SNRI, has been shown to have positive results in two trials of more
than 800 participants with non-combat-related PTSD (Davidson, 2006a, 2006b).
Duloxetine and desvenlafaxine have not been studied and can not be recommended
at this time. In a 24-week comparison trial, venlafaxine performed as well as
sertraline in a civilian population (Davidson, 2006b).
Other monotherapy recommendations are mirtazapine, nefazodone, TCAs, and
MAOIs, although these agents have been studied in fewer patients and are
considered second-line treatment options. Of the TCAs, only amitriptyline and
imipramine have demonstrated positive outcomes, while data on desipramine and
nortriptyline have been negative and from poor-quality studies. Nefazodone has been
the subject of several small- to mid-sized RCTs and case-control studies (Davis et
al., 2000; Garfield et al., 2001; Gillin et al., 2001; Hertzberg et al., 1998; Hidalgo et
al., 1999; Zisook et at., 2000). In all six studies, the drug was helpful in improving
CAPS, HAM-D, sleep, and anxiety. In a trial of combat- and sexual assault-origin
PTSD, nefazodone was more effective than placebo (Davis, 2004). Nefazodone has
demonstrated efficacy equivalent to sertraline in two fair-quality trials (McRae, 2004;
Saygin, 2002). Two trials with mirtazapine (Davidson, 2003; Chung, 2004) have
demonstrated positive findings. However, in the placebo-controlled trial (Davidson,
2003), both mirtazapine and placebo had large effect sizes. In a trial of military
veterans, mirtazapine was as efficacious as sertraline, but there was no placebo
comparison arm (Chung, 2004). Of the currently available MOAIs, only phenelzine
has been studied. In a placebo comparison trial, Vietnam veterans assigned to
phenelzine had significant improvement in IES compared to placebo (Kosten, 1991).
Atypical Antipsychotics
Although atypical antipsychotics are not effective as monotherapy, significant
efficacy as adjunctive treatment to antidepressants has been shown in trials
composed primarily of veterans. Response was predominantly in hyperarousal and
re-experiencing symptom clusters.There have been nine published RCTs of two
different antipsychotics, risperidone and olanzepine and one small quetiapine trial.
The studies were small, of variable design quality. In six trials risperidone was used
as an augmentation to other medications, rather than as a primary treatment. Only
one trial has addressed their role in co-morbid psychosis (Hamner, 2003a). A
significant improvement in psychotic symptoms (change in PANS) was found in
veterans treated with risperidone compared to placebo; both groups improved
significantly in their CAPS scores.Olanzapine as an adjunctive treatment improved
CAPS scores and sleep quality compared to placebo in a small 8-week trial (Stein M,
Module I-2 – Treatment Interventions For PTSD
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Management of Post-Traumatic Stress
2002). No data are available on the use of typical antipsychotics in the treatment of
PTSD. In an open-label trial, quetiapine improved both PANS and CAPS scores
compared to baseline (Hamner & Deitsch 2003b).
Anticonvulsants
The existing evidence does not support the use of anticonvulsants as monotherapy
for the management of PTSD core symptoms. Tiagabine has been compared to
placebo in two RCTs, with no difference in response (Connor 2006; Davidson 2007).
Valproate, as monotherapy, did not differ from placebo in one RCT (Davis, 2008).
Anticonvulsants are frequently used as adjunctive treatments. Only topiramate has
been studied in this role in veterans, with negative results (Lindley, 2007). Data on
other anticonvulsants are insufficient to recommend their use in PTSD. A metaanalysis showed benefit in the use of valproate in PTSD (Adamou, 2007).
Benzodiazepines
Benzodiazepines are widely used for symptomatic control of insomnia, panic/anxiety,
and irritability; there is no evidence that they reduce the core symptoms (e.g.,
syndromal symptoms) of PTSD, such as avoidance or dissociation (Friedman and
Davidson & Stein, 2009; Viola et al., 1997). Kosten et al. (2000) present evidence
that does not support the use of benzodiazepines in PTSD.
Benzodiazepine administration should be discouraged both in acute stress disorder
(ASD) and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), due to lack of evidence for
effectiveness and risks that outweigh potential benefits. Although benzodiazepines
have been frequently used “as needed” and continuously for anxiety disorders,
including to augment evidence-based treatment modalities in PTSD, there is
evidence to suggest that benzodiazepines may actually potentiate the acquisition of
fear responses and worsen recovery from trauma. Benzodiazepine use should be
considered relatively contraindicated in combat veterans with PTSD because of the
very high co-morbidity of combat-related PTSD with alcohol misuse and substance
use disorders (upwards of 50 percent of co-morbidity) and potential problems with
tolerance and dependence. Once initiated in combat veterans, benzodiazepines can
be very difficult, if not impossible, to discontinue, due to significant withdrawal
symptoms, compounded by the underlying PTSD symptoms.
The two clinical trials of benzodiazepines to treat PTSD have shown negative
findings:
•
Braun, et al. (1990) - In a randomized double-blind cross-over study, alprazolam
showed no significant benefit in alleviating PTSD symptoms compared with
placebo. A slight reduction in anxiety symptoms was offset by withdrawal effects
documented after only five weeks of treatment.
•
Cates, et al. (2004) - This small, single-blind cross-over placebo-controlled study
compared clonazepam with placebo for the treatment of sleep dysfunction
associated with combat-related PTSD. The study showed no significant difference
between the benzodiazepine and placebo treatments.
•
Viola et al. (1997) - At Tripler Army Medical Center, after having treated 632
patients, the vast majority of whom suffered from combat-related PTSD, between
1990 and 1996, the staff began to “explore treatment alternatives” to
benzodiazepines due to the “risks attendant to benzodiazepine management of
PTSD, coupled with poor clinical outcome”.
Module I-2 – Treatment Interventions For PTSD
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Management of Post-Traumatic Stress
•
Risse et al. (1990) - This case series reflects the typical clinical experience when
benzodiazapines are utilized for treating combat-related PTSD. In this study,
alprazolam was used to augment treatment of anxiety symptoms in 8 combat
veterans with chronic PTSD and co-morbid conditions (mostly alcohol misuse).
Although anxiety initially improved with treatment, the improvement was shortlived and resulted in tolerance to increasing doses and eventual failure of the
treatment. The key problem was encountered upon attempting to gradually
withdraw the medication after determining that ongoing treatment was not going
to be of further benefit. All 8 patients experienced severe reactions, including
anxiety, sleep disturbance, rage, hyper-alertness, increased nightmares, and
intrusive thoughts; 6 of the 8 veterans developed a level of rage with homicidal
ideation that they had never encountered previously.
•
Randal et al. (1995) and Coupland et al. (1997) - Flumazenil, a
benzodiazepine/GABA receptor antagonist, provokes panic attacks in patients
with panic disorder but not in healthy controls. In these two studies (one of which
involved a group of male Vietnam combat veterans), flumazenil was compared
with placebo to determine if it provoked anxiety, panic, or PTSD symptoms. Both
studies showed that there were no significant increases in anxiety, panic, or PTSD
symptoms in subjects as a result of flumazenil administration. This suggests that
PTSD is dissimilar to panic disorder in terms of benzodiazepine receptor
functioning and helps to explain why benzodiazepine treatment has produced no
significant benefits in clinical trials.
•
Several studies involving different animal models of PTSD (for example, Matar et
al., 2009; Hebert et al., 1996) have shown that benzodiazepine administration in
the immediate aftermath of stress exposure significantly increases vulnerability of
developing more severe responses upon subsequent exposure to stress.
Sympatholytics
Prazosin, as a global treatment for PTSD, has yielded mixed results; it has shown
consistent efficacy in improving sleep and reducing nightmares. In five relatively
small studies (Raskind et al., 2002, 2003, and 2007; and Taylor 2006, 2008),
prazosin has demonstrated a value in reducing nightmares and in improving CAPS,
CGI, and CGIC scores. The goal of these studies was not evaluation of overall PTSD
symptoms, but evaluation of targeted symptoms, which showed good outcomes.
(See discussion in Module I-3 A. Sleep Disturbance).
Guanfacine was studied in two trials (Neylan et al. 2006; and Davise et al., 2008).
No effect was seen on measures of PTSD symptom severity for the actively treated
group relative to the placebo group.
Other Agents
Buspirone, a non-benzodiazepine anti-anxiety drug, is reported to have “clinical
efficacy” in two very small studies (Duffy & Malloy, 1994; Wells et al., 1991).
A single clinical investigation of the effect of the antibiotic D-cycloserine (HerescoLevy et al., 2002) enrolled 11 patients in a crossover trial. While patients reported
some improvement on self-reported measures of PTSD symptoms, similar
improvements were seen in placebo-treated patients.
Module I-2 – Treatment Interventions For PTSD
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For management of Post-Traumatic Stress
Table I - 7 Pharmacological Studies for Treatment of PTSD
Drug
Source of Evidence
Result
n
LE
QE
NB
SR
Brady et al., 2000
Significant improvement, CAPS-2, CGI
187
I
G
Sub
A
Chung et al, 2004
Mirtazapine is effective as sertraline Military veterans (Korean) 51
II-1
F
Mod
Davidson et al., 2001a
Significant responder rate, CAPS-2
208
I
G
Sub
Davidson et al., 2002
Study of effect on individual symptoms
?
II-2
F
Mod
Davidson et al.,2001b
Effective for preventing PTSD relapse
96
I
G
Sub
Friedman et al., 2007
No sig diff. between Tx and placebo. Combat trauma.
169
I
G
Zero
Londborg et al., 2001
Significant response maintained x 36 weeks
128
II-1
G
Sub
Rapaport et al., 2002
Significant response maintained x 64 weeks
359
I/II-1 G
Sub
Tucker et al., 2003
Significant improvement of primary outcome
58
I
F
Zero
Zohar et al., 2002
Numerical advantage (only), not sig, Israeli vets
42
I
G
Zero
Marshal, 2007
Significant improvement, CAPS-2 & CGI
52
I
G
Sub
Marshall, et al., 2001
Significant improvement, CAPS-2 & CGI
551
I
G
Sub
Tucker, et al., 2001
Significant improvement, CAPS-2
307
I
G
Sub
Barnett et al., 2002
Study of tolerability. Well tolerated
65
I
G
Sub
Connor et al., 1999
“Superior” response for civilian patients
Well tolerated and effective in prevention of relapse, improved
CGI. High rate of relapse
No significant dif. between Tx and Pbo; TOP-8
Effective for prevention of PTSD relapse; 50% subjects combat related
Effective: improvement in TOP-8, CGI; 50% subjects -combat
related
Reduced all symptom clusters of PTSD;
53
I
G
57
I
G
SSRI
Sertraline *
Paroxetine *
Fluoxetine
Davidson, 2005
Martenyi, 2007
411
I
G
Zero
I
G
Sub
301
I
G
Sub
53
II-2
F
Fluoxetine > placebo, more in non-VA pts
64
I
G
Sub
Seedat et al., 2000
Significant improvement, CAPS-2
14
II-1
F
Zero
Tucker et al, 2003
Sig improvement (↓ BP)
58
I
F
Neg
Escalona et al., 2002
Appears to improve PTSD symptoms
15
III
P
-
Neylan et al., 2001
Improved sleep quality for Vietnam vets
21
III
P
-
Martenyi et al., 2002b
Meltzer-Brody, et al.,
2000
Van der ko et al., 1994
Citalopram
Fluvoxamine
Module I-2 – Treatment Interventions For PTSD
A
Sub
131
Martenyi et al., 2002a
A
C
I
Page - 156
October, 2010
Drug
Source of Evidence
VA/DoD Clinical Practice Guideline
For management of Post-Traumatic Stress
Result
n
LE
QE
NB
SR
Davidson et al., 1990
Effective for core symptoms of PTSD
46
I
G
Mod
B
Davidson et al., 1993
Significant improvement: IES, CGI, HAMD
62
I
G
Desipramine
Reist et al., 1989
Did not show efficacy; no statistics
27
III
P
Imipramine
Kosten et al., 1991
Significant improvement, CAPS-2, IES
41
I
G
Nortriptyline
Zygmont et al., 1998
Effective for traumatic grief symptoms
22
II-1
G
Dow et al., 1997
Improvement in CGE for PTSD with MDD
72
II-2
F
Kosten et al., 1991
Significant improvement in IES, better than placebo
37
I
G
Mod
B
Davidson et al, 2006
Effective in tx PTSD, Improves resilience
329
I
G
Sub
A
Davidson et al., 2006b
Effective similar to sertraline
531
I
G
Sub
Becker et al., 2007
Bupropion SR had no effect on PTSD
30
I
F
Neg
I
Canive et al., 1998
No change in total CAPS score - male veterans
17
II-2
F
Davis et al, 2004
Nefazodone is effective and well tolerated ; Combat, sexual
42
I
G
Sub
B
Davis et al., 2000
Significant improvement in CAPS, HAM-D
36
II-2
G
Garfield et al., 2001
Significant improvement in CAPS, anxiety
14
II-2
F
Gillin et al., 2001
Significant improvement in sleep, CAPS
12
II-2
F
Hidalgo et al., 1999
High response rate; pooled data, 6 studies
105
II-2
McRae et al., 2004
37
I
Sub
54
I
F
Sub
Zisook et at., 2000
Nefazodone is effective as sertraline. High attrition rates
Nefazodone is effective as sertraline and well tolerated
Earthquake survivors
PTSD symptoms lessened, CAPS
F
F
19
II-2
F
Trazodone
Warner et al., 2001
Reduction in nightmares; 9 reported priapism
74
III
P
Mirtazapine
Chung et al., 2004
Mirtazapine is effective as sertraline and well tolerated. Military 51
veterans (Korean)
Significant improvement in the SPRINT, SIP, DTS as
26
compared to placebo
II-1
F
Mod
B
I
F
Mod
B
TCA
Amitriptyline
MAOI/RIMA
Phenelzine
SNRI
Venlafaxine
Secondary AD
Bupropion
Nefazodone
Saygin et al,, 2002
Davidson et al., 2003
Module I-2 – Treatment Interventions For PTSD
I
Page - 157
October, 2010
Drug
VA/DoD Clinical Practice Guideline
For management of Post-Traumatic Stress
Source of Evidence
Result
n
LE
QE
NB
SR
Gabapentin
Hamner et al., 2001
Effective for insomnia, adjunct treatment
30
II-2
P
Zero
I
Lamotrigine
Hertzberg et al., 1999
Promising results
14
I
P
Zero
I
Topiramate
Lindley, 2007
No significant effect for topiramate over placebo
40
I
F
Zero
D
Tucker , 2007
Not significant difference from placebo (non-combat)
Divalproex monotherapy was not effective in the treatment of
chronic PTSD
Valproate was generally effective in reducing hyperarousal,
improving irritability and anger
No significant improvement was observed on all outcome
measures
No difference from placebo
38
I
G
Zero
85
I
G
Zero
63
I
F
Small
29
I
F
Zero
232
I
G
Zero
Butterfield et al., 2001
No beneficial effect. High placebo response
15
I
G
Petty et al., 2001
Significant improvement in CAPS, CGI
48
II-1
G
Stein et al., 2002
Adjunct to SSRI. Sig. improve measures but not global PTSD
19
I
F
Quetiapine
Hamner et al., 2003
Significant improvement in CAPS
20
II-1
F
Risperidone
Bartzokis 2005
Risperidone (adjunct.) > placebo; Military vets..
48
I
G
Sub
Hamner et al., 2003
Adjunct to other meds, co-morbid psychoses. Vietnam vets
40
I
F
Neg
Monnelly, 2003
Risperidone > placebo; Military combat
Sexual assault - risperidone monotherapy was more effective
than placebo
Child abuse - Risperidone more effective than placebo;
Civilian - Risperidone (adjunct) was helpful in subjects who did
not remit with sertraline alone
15
I
F
Mod
20
I
P
Small
21
I
F
Mod
45
I
F
Small
Anticonvulsants
Valproate
Davis, 2008
Adamou, 2007 (SR)
Tiagabine
Connor, 2006
Davidson, 2007
D
D
Atypical Antipsychotics
Olanzapine
Padala, 2006
Reich, 2004
Rothbaum, 2008
Module I-2 – Treatment Interventions For PTSD
I
Mod
I
C
Page - 158
October, 2010
Drug
VA/DoD Clinical Practice Guideline
For management of Post-Traumatic Stress
Source of Evidence
Result
n
LE
QE
NB
SR
Clonidine
Kinzie & Leung, 1989
Cambodian refugees improved, dual therapy
68
III
P
-
I
Guanfacine
Horrigan & Barnhill,
1996
Neylan, 2006
suppression of PTSD associated nightmares in children
1
III
P
-
D
No effect on PTSD symptoms (in vet military)
63
I
Good Neg
Davis, 2008
No effect on PTSD symptoms
65
I
Good Neg
Raskind et al., 2003
Significant improvement, CAPS, CGI
10
I
F
Small
Raskind et al., 2002
Significant improvement in dream scores
Significant improved sleep quality, reduced nightmares, better
overall sense of well-being.
Reduction in global PTSD illness severity
Significantly improved CGI-I scores and changed PDRS scores
toward normal dreaming
59
II-2
F
Zero
34
I
G
Mod
11
II
P
Mod
13
I
F
Mod
Not associated with adverse outcomes
Sympatholytics
Prazosin
Raskind et al., 2007
Taylor et al., 2006
Taylor et al., 2008
Benzodiazepines
Benzodiaz.
Kosten et al., 2000
Alprazolam
Braun et al., 1990
Clonazepam
Temazepam
B
370
II-2
F
Zero
D
Did not show efficacy.
(concern: rebound anxiety)
Fossey & Hamner, 1994 A source of sexual dysfunction
16
I
F
Zero
D
42
III
P
Zero
D
Gelpin et al., 1996
No beneficial effect in PTSD, may worsen outcome
20
II-1
F
Zero
Shalev & Rogel 1992
No effect on auditory startle
N/A III
F
Zero
Melman et al., 2002
Cates et al., 2004
No benefits in preventing PTSD; may worsen outcome
No difference between the benzodiazepine and placebo
11
P
P
Zero
Zero
I
I
D
D
D-cycloserine
Heresco-Levy, 2002
Improvements in numbing, avoidance, and anxiety symptoms
11
I
Fair
Zero
I
LE=Level of Evidence QE=Quality of Evidence (F=Fair; G=Good; P=Poor); NB=Net benefit (Sub=Substantial; Mod = Moderate; Neg=Negative)
SR= Strength of Recommendation (see Appendix A)
* FDA Approved
Module I-2 – Treatment Interventions For PTSD
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VA/DoD Clinical Practice Guideline
For management of Post-Traumatic Stress
Table I - 8 Symptom Response by Drug Class and Individual Drug (based on controlled trials)
SSRI
SNRI
TCAs
MAOIs
Sympatholytics
Other Antidepressants
Atypical Antipsychotics
Global
Improvement
Re-experiencing
(B)
Avoidance/
Numbing (C)
Hyperarousal
(D)
X
X
X
X
X
X
X
X
X
X
X
X
X
X
X
X
X
X
X
X
X
X
X
X
X
X
X
X
Fluoxetine
Sertraline
Paroxetine
Venlafaxine
Amitriptyline/
Imipramine
Phenelzine
Prazosin
Mirtazapine
Nefazodone
Risperidone
Olanzapine
Module I-2 – Treatment Interventions For PTSD
X
X
X
X
X
X
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October, 2010
VA/DoD Clinical Practice Guideline
For management of Post-Traumatic Stress
Table I - 9 Drug Details
Agent
*Oral Dose
Contraindications
Selective Reuptake Serotonin Inhibitors (SSRIs)
Fluoxetine
20 – 60 mg/d
Paroxetine
20 – 60 mg/d
Sertraline
50 – 200 mg/d
Fluvoxamine
50 – 150 mg bid
Citalopram
20 – 60 mg/d
Escitalopram
10 – 20 mg/d
Tricyclic Antidepressants
Imipramine
150 – 300 mg/d
Amitriptyline
150 – 300 mg/d
Desipramine
100 – 300 mg/d
Nortriptyline
50 – 150 mg/d
Protriptyline
30 – 60 mg/d
Clomipramine
150 – 250 mg/d
Adverse Events
Pregnancy Category
Remarks
Contraindications :
• MAO inhibitor within 14 days
• Concurrent use of pimozide or
thioridazine
• Hypersensitivity
•
•
•
•
•
Nausea , diarrhea
• All except paroxetine are
Category C
Headache
• Paroxetine Category D
Dizziness
• Women planning to
Sexual dysfunction
breast-feed, consider an
Hyponatremia/SIADH (Syndrome
anti-depressant with the
of Inappropriate Anti-diuretic
lowest excretion into
Hormone)
breast milk: paroxetine,
• Nervousness, anxiety, agitation
sertraline
• Serotonin syndrome
• Avoid abrupt discontinuation of
Contraindications :
• Clomipramine – seizure
disorder
• MAOI use within 14 days
• Acute MI within 3 months
• Hypersensitivity
•
•
•
•
•
•
•
•
• Therapeutic blood
Relative Contraindications:
• Coronary artery disease
• Prostatic enlargement
Module I-2 – Treatment Interventions For PTSD
Dry mouth
Dry eyes
Constipation
Orthostatic hypotension
Increased heart rate
Ventricular arrythmias
Weight gain
Drowsiness
• Category C
• Women planning to
breast-feed, consider an
antidepressant with the
lowest excretion into
breast milk: nortriptyline
all except fluoxetine
• Citalopram, escitalopram, and
sertraline are less likely to be
involved in hepatic enzyme
drug interactions involving
CYP2D6 or 3A4
• All except escitalopram are
generically available
• St. Johns Wort may in
decrease the concentration of
SSRIs metabolized by
CYP2D6
concentrations not established
for PTSD
• Desipramine and nortriptyline
have lower rate of sedation
anticholinergic and
hypotensive effects
• Moderate CYP2D6 inhibition
• St. Johns Wort may decrease
the concentration of SSRIs
metabolized by CYP2D6
Page I - 161
October, 2010
Agent
*Oral Dose
Monoamine Oxidase Inhibitors
Phenelzine
45-75 mg/d in divided
doses
Tranylcypromine
10 – 60 mg/d
target 1 mg/kg/d
target 0.7 mg/kg/d
Sympatholytics
Propranolol
Prazosin
10-40 mg/d
Target 6 – 10 mg/d
Start with 1 mg at bedtime
and increase as blood
pressure allows.
VA/DoD Clinical Practice Guideline
For management of Post-Traumatic Stress
Contraindications
Adverse Events
Pregnancy Category
Remarks
Contraindications:
• All antidepressants within 14
days of start of a MAOI,
except fluoxetine is 5 weeks
• Concurrent use with CNS
stimulants or depressants
and decongestants
• CHF, hepatic or renal
disease
• Pheochromocytoma
• Foods high in tyramine
• Hypersensitivity
• Hypertensive crisis with
drug/tyramine interactions
• Bradycardia
• Orthostatic hypotension
• Insomnia
• Dry mouth
• Dry Eyes
• Constipation
• Category C
• Patient must maintain a
low-tyramine diet and avoid
foods rich in tyramine
• Tranycypromine should be
taken early in the day to
reduce insomnia
• MAOIs are to be
discontinued 2 weeks prior
to starting another
antidepressant or
serotonergic agent
Contraindications:
• Hypotension, bronchospasm,
• Category C
• Breast-feeding – not
• Has only been used in a single
• Category C
• Breast-feeding – effects
• Primarily used for
• Sinus bradycardia,
uncompensated congestive
heart failure, 2nd or 3rd
degree heart block, severe
COPD or asthma,
hypersensitivity to betablockers
bradycardia
• Hypersensitivity to quinazolines • First dose syncope
• Conurrent use of
phosphodiesterase type-5
inhibitors
Module I-2 – Treatment Interventions For PTSD
recommended
unknown
dose for prevention of PTSD
management of recurrent
distressing dreams
Page I - 162
October, 2010
Agent
*Oral Dose
Novel Antidepressants
Bupropion
150 – 450 mg/d
Nefazodone
300 – 600 mg/d
Trazodone
300 – 600 mg/d
Venlafaxine
150 – 375 mg/d
Mirtazapine
30 – 60 mg/d
VA/DoD Clinical Practice Guideline
For management of Post-Traumatic Stress
Contraindications
Contraindications :
• MAOI use within 14 days (all)
• Hypersensitivity
Bupropion
– single doses of regularrelease >150 mg/d and total
daily dose >450 mg/d.
Adverse Events
• Bupropion: headache, insomnia,
•
•
•
• History of seizures, anorexia or
buliemia- Nefazodone
• Active liver disease or
increased liver enzymes
• Use with carbamazepine,
•
dizziness, weight loss, decreased
appetite, anxiety, agitation,
nervousness, sleep disturbances
Nefazodone: hepatotoxicity
Trazodone and nefazodone:
sedation, rare priapism
Venlafaxine: hypertension in
patients with pre-existing
hypertension, headache,
insomnia, somnolence,
nervousness, dizziness, anorexia
Mirtazapine: weight gain,
increase appetite, somnolence,
dry mouth
Pregnancy Category
• Category C (all)
Remarks
• Need to taper venlafaxine to
•
•
•
•
prevent rebound
signs/symptoms
The group has a lower rate of
sexual dysfunction compared
to SSRIs
Obtain baseline LFTs when
treating with nefazodone
Nefazodone is a potent
CYP3A4 inhibitor
St. Johns Wort may increase
mirtazapine’s metabolism
pimozide, cisapride, triazolam,
and alprazolam
Module I-2 – Treatment Interventions For PTSD
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October, 2010
Agent
Anticonvulsants
Carbamazepine
VA/DoD Clinical Practice Guideline
For management of Post-Traumatic Stress
*Oral Dose
target 400 – 1600 mg/d
Contraindications
Contraindications:
Adverse Events
• bone marrow suppression,
aplastic anemia, leukopenia,
SIADH, drowsiness, ataxia,
photosensitivity, serious
dermatologic reactions, including
Stevens-Johnson syndrome, A-V
block, and bradycardia
• bone marrow suppression,
particularly leukopenia
• hypersensitivity to
Gabapentin
Lamotrigine
Topiramate
carbamazepine, pimozide, or
tricyclic antidepressants
• MAOI use within 14 days
• Concurrent use of nefazodone
target 300 – 3600 mg/d
Not taking divalproex or
CBZ: 25 mg once a day
for 2 weeks, then 50
mg/day for 2 weeks, then
100 mg/day for 1 week
target 200 – 400 mg/d.
• renal impairment
• increased rash with valproate;
max dose of 200 mg
• hepatic impairment
Start with 25 – 50 mg/d
and increase by 15 – 50
mg/week to maximum
dose or as tolerated.
Valproate
target 10 – 15 mg/kg/d
• impaired liver function,
thrombocytopenia
Module I-2 – Treatment Interventions For PTSD
Pregnancy Category
• Therapeutic blood
• Category D
concentration are not
• Excreted into breast milk
in high concentrations;
measurable in infant
serum.
• sedation, ataxia
• peripheral edema
• Category C
• Excreted into breast
•
•
•
•
•
•
•
•
•
•
•
•
•
•
•
•
•
•
•
•
•
• Category C
• Excreted in breast milk in
Stevens-Johnson syndrome
Fatigue
Headache
Peripheral edema
Rash
Vision changes
angle closure glaucoma
sedation
dizziness
ataxia
cognitive impairment
weight loss
paresthesia
vision changes
nausea/vomiting
sedation
ataxia
thrombocytopenia
Alopecia
Weight gain
pancreatitis
Remarks
milk; effects unknown
measurable level
• Category C
• Excreted into breast
milk; breast-feeding
not recommended
established for PTSD, but
monitoring may be useful in
cases of suspected toxicity
(usual range 4 – 12 mcg/mL)
• Strong inducer of CYP 1A2,
2B6, 2C8, 2C9, 2C19, and
3A4. Induction can reduce
effectiveness of many
medication, such as oral
contraceptives
Adjust dose base on renal function
• Taking divalproex: 25 mg
every other day for 2 weeks,
then 25 mg/day for 2 weeks,
then 50 mg/day for 1 week,
then 100 mg/day
• Taking enzyme-inducing drug
(eg, CBZ): 50 mg/day for 2
weeks, then 100 mg/day for 2
weeks, then 200 mg/day for 1
week, then 300 mg/day for 1
week
• Category D
• Low concentrations in
breast milk and infant.
Theoretical risk for
hepatotoxicity or
thrombocytopenia.
Monitor for jaundice,
liver damage,
bleeding.
Page I - 164
October, 2010
Agent
Benzodiazepines
Clonazepam
VA/DoD Clinical Practice Guideline
For management of Post-Traumatic Stress
*Oral Dose
Start - 0.25 mg bid,
increase by 0.25 mg
every 1-2 days;
maximum 20 mg/d
Lorazepam
Alprazolam
Diazepam
2 – 4 mg/d, 1.5 to 6
mg/d, 10 - 40 mg/d
Contraindications
Contraindications:
• hypersensitivity
• significant liver disease
(clonazepam)
• narrow angle glaucoma
• severe respiratory
insufficiency (lorazepam)
• Caution in elderly patients
and patients with impaired
liver function.
• Risk of abuse in patients
with history of substance
abuse
Adverse Events
•
•
•
•
•
•
sedation
memory impairment
ataxia
dependence
confusion
hypotension
Pregnancy Category
• Category D (all)
• All enter breast milk;
breast-feeding not
recommended
Remarks
• If doses sustained > 2
months at therapeutic
doses, then drug should be
tapered over 4-week period
• Alprazolam – concern with
rebound anxiety
Typical antipsychotics
Chlorpromazine
100 – 800 mg/d
Haloperidol
2 – 20 mg/d
Contraindication :
• Parkinson’s disease
• QTc prolongation or concurrent
use with medications that
prolong the QTc interval
• Severe CNS depression
• Hypersensitivity
• Sedation
• Orthostatic hypotension with
•
•
•
•
•
•
Module I-2 – Treatment Interventions For PTSD
chlorpromazine, thioridazine·
Akathisia
Dystonia
Drug-induced parkinsonism
Tardive dyskinesia may occur
with all anti-psychotics with longterm use.
Neuroleptic malignant syndrome
QTc changes
• Category C (all)
• All enter breast milk; not
recommended
• Therapeutic doses not
established in the treatment of
PTSD
• Use should be well justified in
medical record because of the
risk of tardive dyskinesia.
Page I - 165
October, 2010
Agent
VA/DoD Clinical Practice Guideline
For management of Post-Traumatic Stress
*Oral Dose
Contraindications
Adverse Events
Pregnancy Category
Remarks
Atypical antipsychotics
Olanzapine
5 – 20 mg/d
Quetiapine
300 – 800 mg/d
Risperidone
1 – 6 mg/d
Relative contraindication:
• Parkinson’s disease
• Hypersensitivity
•
•
•
•
Olanzapine: Category C
Sedation
Quetiapine: Category C
Weight gain
Risperidone: Category C
Neuroleptic malignant syndrome
Higher doses may cause
akathisa, drug-induced
• All excreted into breast
parkinsonism, especially with
milk; not recommended;
risperidone doses >6 mg/d
use with caution
anti-anxiety
- Buspirone
5 – 10 mg/d
5 – 10 mg/d
20 – 60 mg/d
established for PTSD
• Weight gain occurs with all
agents; however, olanzapine
produces significantly greater
gain
• The relative risk of tardive
dyskinesia compared to typical
antipsychotics has not been
established for these agents
• Monitor for development of
diabetes/hyperglycemia ,
increased cholesterol, and
trigylcerides
•
Non-benzodiazepine
hypnotics
- Zaleplon
- Zolpidem
• Therapeutic doses not
Contraindications:
• Hypersensitivity
Precautions:
• Caution with alcohol/drug
abuse history
• Caution in elderly and patients
with liver dysfunction
Precaution:
• MAOI use within 14 days
•
•
•
•
•
•
•
•
•
•
Sedation
Ataxia
Rebound insomnia may occur
Dizziness
Headache
Behavioral changes, bizarre
behavior, hazardous activities
while asleep
Nausea
Headache
Dizziness
Drowsiness
• Category C (both)
• Abuse has occurred, resulting
in withdrawal reactions
• Enters breast milk; avoid
• Zolpidem is a CYP3A4
zaleplon; use zolpidem
with caution
substrate and its metabolism
can be decreased by 3A4
inhibitors
• Category B
• Buspirone is a CYP3A4
substrate, and its metabolism
• Excretion into breast milk
unknown; not
recommended
can be decreased by 3A4
inhibitors
*Dose adjustments may be necessary in renal or hepatic impairment
Module I-2 – Treatment Interventions For PTSD
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October, 2010
VA/DoD Clinical Practice Guideline for the
Management of Post-Traumatic Stress
D. ADJUNCTIVE SERVICES
D1. Psychosocial Rehabilitation
BACKGROUND
Patients with chronic PTSD may develop a persistent incapacitating mental illness
marked by severe and intolerable symptoms; marital, social, and vocational disability;
and extensive use of psychiatric and community services. These patients may
sometimes benefit more from therapeutic intervention that facilitates generalizing skills
for coping with PTSD from clinic to home/work/community, such as case management
and psychosocial rehabilitation, than from psycho- or pharmacotherapy.
Psychosocial Rehabilitation involves clinicians providing family psychoeducation,
supported employment, supported education, and supported housing; some serving as
case managers; or others working with peer counselors. VHA’s Uniform Mental Health
Services policies (VHA Handbook, 2009) now mandate psychosocial rehabilitation,
expanding such services from inpatient units to outpatient programs in Primary Care
settings, Outpatient clinics, Community-Based Outpatient Clinics (CBOCs), Vet Centers,
and Home-Based Care programs and in partnerships with agencies and providers in
communities.
RECOMMENDATIONS
1. Consider psychosocial rehabilitation techniques once the client and clinician
identify the following kinds of problems associated with the diagnosis of PTSD:
persistent high-risk behaviors, lack of self-care/independent living skills,
homelessness, interactions with a family that does not understand PTSD, socially
inactive, unemployed, and encounters with barriers to various forms of
treatment/rehabilitation services.
2. Patient and clinician should determine whether such problems are associated with
core symptoms of PTSD and, if so, ensure that rehabilitation techniques are used
as a contextual vehicle for alleviating PTSD symptoms.
3. Psychosocial rehabilitation should occur concurrently or shortly after a course of
treatment for PTSD, since psychosocial rehabilitation is not trauma-focused.
DISCUSSION
Penk and Flannery (2000) listed seven forms of psychosocial rehabilitation as clinical
practice guidelines for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD):
1.
2.
3.
4.
5.
6.
7.
Patient education services
Self-Care and Independent Living Skills Techniques
Supported Housing
Marital/Family Skills Training
Social Skills Training
Vocational Rehabilitation
Case Management
A decade later, Penk & Ainspan (2009) suggested adding to this list: 8) Physical health
and well-being and computer-assisted self-management training in reducing PTSD and
other mental disorders, such as addictions and depression.
Module I-2 - Interventions
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October, 2010
VA/DoD Clinical Practice Guideline for the
Management of Post-Traumatic Stress
Table I - 10 Adjunctive Problem-Focused Method/Services
If the client and clinician together conclude that the patient with
PTSD:
Is not fully informed about aspects of health needs and does
1
not avoid high-risk behaviors (e.g., PTSD, substance use)
Does not have sufficient self-care and independent living
2
skills
Does not have safe, decent, affordable, stable housing that is
3
consistent with treatment goals
Does not have a family that is actively supportive and/or
4
knowledgeable about treatment for PTSD
5
Is not socially active
6
7
8
9
10
Does not have a job that provides adequate income and/or
fully uses his or her training and skills
Is unable to locate and coordinate access to services, such as
those listed above
Does request spiritual support
OTHER CONDITIONS
Does have a borderline personality disorder typified by
parasuicidal behaviors
Does have concurrent substance abuse problem
Service/Training
Provide patient education
Refer to self-care/independent
living skills training services
Use and/or refer to
supported housing services
Implement family skills training
Implement social skills training
Implement vocational rehabilitation
training
Use case management services
Provide access to religious/spiritual
advisors and/or other resources
Consider Dialectical Behavioral
Therapy
Integrated PTSD substance abuse
treatment
The empirical literature on group treatment for PTSD has grown since the publication of
the first edition of the Treatment Guidelines for PTSD.
Evidence-based research from randomized clinical trials is now available to support
recommending psychosocial rehabilitation when treating veterans (Glynn, Drebing, &
Penk, 2009). Psychosocial Rehabilitations are not limited to veterans with schizophrenia
or other psychoses. Psychosocial rehabilitations are recognized as efficacious in treating
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorders (PTSDs), Major Depression Disorders (MDDs), and
Addictions, especially when mental health practices are delivered through selfmanagement manuals and the Internet, integrated into supported education and
supported employment
The psychosocial rehabilitation model may include medication as needed, skills training
designed to assist veterans to live productively in the community, and various forms of
psychotherapy. Integrating trauma-focused psychotherapies with psychosocial
rehabilitation is currently under-utilized, but new interventions are being empirically
validated to bring together several forms of treatments and rehabilitation for PTSD.
Models of Psychosocial Rehabilitation Services
1. Education
• Family psychoeducation is the process of providing education and coping skills for
veterans and their families about relevant medical and mental disorders.
Examples of such psychosocial rehabilitation are the family interventions for PTSD
developed at the VA in West Los Angeles and manualized approaches designed by
Sherman, Sautter, Lyons, Manguno-Mire, Han, and Perry (2005), delivered at VHA
medical centers in VISN 16—Oklahoma City, Jackson, and Houston.
Module I-2 - Interventions
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October, 2010
VA/DoD Clinical Practice Guideline for the
Management of Post-Traumatic Stress
• Family psychoeducation generally takes place in multi-family groups (producing
the added benefit of augmenting social support), but such techniques can also be
given in single-family formats or even by books or online (e.g., Sherman &
Sherman, 2005).
• Family psychoeducation is noted for fostering social support, challenging a key
symptom in Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), which is characterized by
social avoidance and isolation. Precautions are needed in fielding family
psychoeducation among many different families, since consent of each individual
is always required when information is shared about a veteran’s illness and/or
about families’ symptoms and ways of coping. Family psychoeducation is a
treatment modality in which families are a partner in providing services to each
other: Families are not objects in treatment.
• Family psychoeducation is effective, particularly for PTSD (Glynn, Drebing, &
Penk, 2009), and hence is well regarded in the VHA and emphasized in mental
health services. Studies from different countries over the past 20 years show that
family psychoeducation reduces the rates of re-hospitalization by an average of
50 percent.
2. Self-Care and Independent Living Skills Techniques
• While social rehabilitative therapies (i.e., teaching social, coping, and life function
skills) have been proven to be effective in chronic schizophrenic and other
persistently impaired psychiatric cohorts, they have yet to be formally tested with
PTSD clients. Since they appear to generalize well from clients with one mental
disorder to another, it is reasonable to expect that they will also work with PTSD
clients. There is clinical consensus that appropriate outcomes would be
improvement in self-care, family function, independent living, social skills, and
maintenance of employment.
• Given the positive impact of independent skills training techniques for mental
disorders in general (Halford et al., 1995), PTSD-centered modules should be
developed and tested for effectiveness.
3. Supported Housing
• VHA, for decades, has offered support for housing through residential care
programs, such as residential care in inpatient units, domiciliaries, affiliations with
state and local housing resources, vouchers for single-room occupancy, and
congregate housing in private homes.
• Forms of housing that are considered more effective are those in which clinical
services are integrated or efforts are made by the treating staff to foster
community living (Goldfinger et al., 1997; Schutt & Garrett, 1992).
• Existing literature for persons with other forms of mental illness demonstrates
that case management linked to specialized clinical services is more effective than
“single-room occupancy” or “warehousing” in shelters without other forms of
support (Goldfinger et al., 1997).
• The greatest risk to ending housing arrangement and likelihood of discontinuing
rehabilitation arises from addictions (Goldfinger, Schutt, Tolomiczenko, Seidman,
Penk, Turner, 1999; Rog, 2000; Tsemberis & Eisenberg, 2000; Culhane, Metraux,
& Hadley, 2002). Thus, interventions that provide housing support are critical to
success in rehabilitation (Mares, Kasprow, & Rosenheck, 2004).
Module I-2 - Interventions
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October, 2010
VA/DoD Clinical Practice Guideline for the
Management of Post-Traumatic Stress
• Research on outcomes for compensated work therapy transitional residence model
(CWT/TR) have shown that such endeavors indeed are quite successful in
transitioning homeless, unemployed veterans who have been hospitalized in
inpatient units from VA medical centers to independent living in the community
(Schutt, Rosenheck, Penk, Drebing, & Seibyl, 2005). The program requires that
unemployed, homeless veterans work in CWT (and, later, other jobs) in order to
gain access to VHA housing for a limited time before transitioning to housing on
one’s own or in private congregate housing with other veterans.
• Outcome studies show that such interventions are successful in promoting tenure
in jobs and in personal living arrangements and promoting healthier styles of
living, as well as lowering costs due to reduce recidivism, (Cook, 2001; McKay,
Johnsen, Banks and Stein, 2005; Cowell, Pollio, North, et al, 2003; Pelletier,
Ngyuen, Bradley, et al,2005.
4. Marital/Family Skills Training
• Marital and family treatments for trauma survivors fall into one of two general
categories: systemic approaches designed to treat marital or family disruption,
and supportive approaches designed to help family members offer support for an
individual being treated for PTSD. These treatments are usually provided as an
adjunct to other forms of treatment that are designed to directly address the
PTSD symptoms.
• A single, low-quality RCT compared the addition of family therapy to individual
therapy for war veterans with PTSD (Glynn et al., 1999). It found no significant
benefit to the addition of behavioral family therapy (BFT), largely due to a high
dropout rate, nor did it add significantly to the treatment of PTSD with direct
therapeutic exposure (DTE) (an individual psychotherapy technique).
• There are no research studies on the effectiveness of marital/family therapy for
the treatment of PTSD. However, because of trauma's unique effects on
interpersonal relatedness, clinical wisdom indicates that spouses and families be
included in the treatment of those with PTSD. Of note, marriage counselling is
typically contraindicated in cases of domestic violence, until the batterer has been
successfully (individually) rehabilitated.
5. Social Skills Training
• Effectiveness of social skills training has been well demonstrated over many years
in many RCTs but not specifically for PTSD (Dilk & Bond, 1996).
• Effectiveness of social skills training has been demonstrated to reduce social
isolation of persons with severe mental disorders (e.g., schizophrenia); similar
techniques may be promising for PTSD, particularly if adapted to address
antecedent conditions involved in trauma and its consequences (Foa & Rothbaum,
1991).
6. Vocational Rehabilitation
• Effectiveness of vocational rehabilitation techniques in treating mental disorders
has been demonstrated under controlled experimental conditions (Bell & Lysaker,
1996; Bell et al., 1996; Bell et al., 1993; Bond et al., 1997) and controlled clinical
studies (Anthony et al., 1995; Drake, 1996; Lehman, 1995; Lysaker et al., 1993).
Module I-2 - Interventions
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October, 2010
VA/DoD Clinical Practice Guideline for the
Management of Post-Traumatic Stress
• As a form of psychosocial rehabilitation, Supported Employment (SE) means that
individuals with mental health disorders learn how to find and keep regular, realworld jobs in the community. In SE, vocational rehabilitation specialists provide
continuous support to assist veterans achieve success at work. Outcomes for SE
have been shown to be much better than for traditional approaches, and this
finding has been replicated in several countries (Bond, Drake and Mueser, 1997;
Latimer, Lecomte, Becker, et al., 2006; Oldman, Thomson, Calsaferri, et al.,
2005).
• Strong outcome data exist to support the efficacy of Supported Employment (SE)
for veterans with medical and mental disorders (Glynn, Drebing, & Penk, 2009).
• SE consists of many different kinds of interventions, including the “place-andtrain” model that uses on-the-job training within and outside VA medical centers
(Penk, 2000).
• A Cochrane Report reviewed eighteen randomized controlled trials among nonveteran and veteran samples, mostly those with serious mental disorders, and
found that SE was superior to programs that offered pre-vocational training
(Crowther, Marshall, Bond, and Huxley, 2001).
• SE was found to be associated with fewer crises, less chaos, more structure, and
on-going support from vocational rehabilitation specialists, because consumers
now focus on developing their lives in the community and managing their illness
more independently (Bond, Becker, and Drake, 2001).
• Effect sizes for treating PTSD with Supported Employment are sizable (e.g.,
Glynn, Drebing, & Penk; 2009; Drebing, Van Ormer, Rosenheck, Rounsaville,
Herz, & Penk, 2005; Drebing, Van Ormer, Schutt, Krebs, Losardo, Boyd, Penk, &
Rosenheck, 2004; Drebing, Van Ormer, Rosenheck, Rounsaville, Herz, & Penk,
2005; Rogers, Anthony, Lyass, & Penk, 2006; Drebing, Van Ormer, Mueller,
Hebert, Penk, Petry, Rosenheck, & Rounsaville, 2007).
7. Case Management
Although case management has been shown to be useful for a range of other psychiatric
disorders, there is currently no evidence available from RCTs or from systematic reviews
to support or reject the use of case management for PTSD patients.
• Among populations with histories of trauma, the assertive community treatment
models have been empirically validated under controlled (but not with random
assignment) conditions (Mueser et al., 1998).
• Most of the research that empirically validates case management has been
conducted among persons with severe mental disorders (Mueser et al., 1998),
presumably including persons with co-occurring PTSD and other disorders.
• Evidence suggests that outcomes are more favorable for intensive case
management (well-trained clinician teaches client psychosocial rehabilitation skills
in the client’s home/community) than for simple case management (clinician links
client to needed services).
• Case management has been demonstrated to reduce in-patient hospitalizations
and severe symptoms, as well as stabilize housing for formerly homeless persons;
however, there is little evidence to suggest that case management improves
vocational adjustment/social functioning (Mueser et al., 1998).
Module I-2 - Interventions
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October, 2010
VA/DoD Clinical Practice Guideline for the
Management of Post-Traumatic Stress
D2. Spiritual Support
BACKGROUND
Religion may provide a framework by which many survivors of trauma construct a
meaningful account of their experience and may be a useful focus for intervention with
trauma survivors. The terms “religious” and “spiritual” are both used in the clinical
literature to refer to beliefs and practices to which individuals may turn for support
following a traumatic event.
DISCUSSION
There is a large body of anecdotal literature documenting the propensity of individuals to
seek religious/spiritual comfort following a traumatic event. The terrorist attacks of
September 11, 2001 provide a recent instance of this phenomenon. Meisenhelder (2002)
noted that “the events of September 11, 2001 triggered . . . an increase in attendance
in religious services and practices immediately following the tragic events.” Schuster and
colleagues (2001) performed a nationwide phone survey of 569 adults within a week of
the attacks, and found that 90 percent reported coping by “turning to religion.”
A study of help-seeking military veterans found significant associations between
negative religious coping, lack of forgiveness, and worse PTSD and depression
symptoms (Witvliet et al., 2004). Similarly, loss of religious faith was found to be
associated with greater utilization of mental health services among military veterans in
treatment for PTSD (Fontana & Rosenheck, 2004).
In a study of religiously active trauma survivors, positive relationships were found
between a measure of positive religious coping, seeking spiritual support, and
posttraumatic growth. In the same study a negative religious coping indicator, religious
strain, was associated with increased post-traumatic symptoms (Harris et al., 2008).
Hypothetical pathways for positive physical/mental health benefits from
religious/spiritual practice include; (1) reduction of behavioral risks through healthy
religious lifestyles (e.g., less drinking or smoking), (2) expanded social support through
involvement in spiritual communities, (3) enhancement of coping skills and helpful
cognitive appraisals resulting in meaning making, and (4) physiological mechanisms such
as activation of the “relaxation response” through prayer or meditation.
Chaplains/pastoral care teams work can work in close collaboration with mental health
providers to ensure that patients who desire it are presented with a spiritual care
experience that results in emotional comfort and improved satisfaction with care (Clark
et al., 2003). For some, Chaplains may play an important role in helping individuals
regain a sense that their basic life assumptions are true. They can also provide
opportunities for participation in prayers, mantras, rites, and rituals, and appropriate
end-of life care as determined important by the patient (Canda & Phaobtong, 1992; Lee,
1997). Often, Chaplains represent the first source of support sought by those
experiencing PTSD symptoms. The act of talking to a Chaplain is unlikely to be
accompanied by the same perception of stigma as the seeking of mental health
treatment, and, in active duty military settings, Chaplains are more able to provide
confidentiality than their mental health provider colleagues. Therefore, in addition to
providing counseling services, Chaplains can play a key role in encouraging participation
in treatment for those who may require it. Finally, Chaplains can often provide an
important link to the larger community for those with PTSD who have limited social
participation.
Module I-2 - Interventions
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October, 2010
EVIDENCE
1
Recommendation
Assess for spiritual needs and
facilitate access to spiritual/religious
care when sought
VA/DoD Clinical Practice Guideline for the
Management of Post-Traumatic Stress
Sources
Canda and Phaobtong, 1992
Clark et al., 2003
Fontana. 2004
Harris et al., 2008
Lee, 1997
Witvliet et al., 2004
LE
II, III
QE
Poor
SR
I
LE =Level of Evidence; QE = Quality of Evidence; SR = Strength of Recommendation (see Appendix A)
E. SOMATIC TREATMENT
E1. Biomedical Somatic Therapies
OBJECTIVE
Evaluate the evidence for efficacy of Biomedical Somatic Therapies, including
Electroconvulsive Therapy (ECT), Cranial Electrotherapy Stimulation (CES), Vagal Nerve
Stimulation (VNS), Repetitive Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (rTMS), and Deep Brain
Stimulation (DBS), in the treatment of PTSD.
BACKGROUND
There has been little research studying these modalities in the treatment of PTSD. ECT
has strong research support in the treatment of refractory depression. VNS, rTMS, and
CES have been cleared for marketing by the FDA for the treatment of depression, and
DBS has been given a humanitarian exemption clearance for marketing for the
treatment of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. None of these modalities has been
approved for the treatment of PTSD.
RECOMMENDATIONS
1. There is insufficient evidence to recommend the use of any of the Biomedical
Somatic Therapies for first-line treatment of PTSD. [D]
2. ECT and rTMS may be considered as an alternative in chronic, severe, medicationand psychotherapy-resistant PTSD. [B]
DISCUSSION
Although there is significant interest in biomedical somatic interventions in PTSD, there
is no evidence for their use as a first-line treatment for PTSD. ECT and rTMS may be
beneficial in chronic, treatment-resistant PTSD; however, their use has to be further
studied in larger patient populations and specifically in combat veterans.
Electroconvulsive Therapy (ECT)
Watts (2007) reports a VA retrospective chart review study of 12 hospitalized Vietnam
veterans with severe refractory depression (including bipolar depression) with co-morbid
PTSD who underwent a course of ECT. Results showed good response for depressive
symptoms but minimal response for PTSD symptoms.
Margoob et al. (2010) reports on an open ECT trial for 20 patients (17 completers) with
severe, chronic, antidepressant- and CBT-refractory PTSD who were prospectively
treated with a fixed course of 6 bilateral ECT treatments on an outpatient basis. The
improvement in PTSD (40 percent), measured by CAPS, was independent of the
improvement in depression (57 percent), and treatment gains were maintained at 4-6
months of follow-up.
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October, 2010
VA/DoD Clinical Practice Guideline for the
Management of Post-Traumatic Stress
Repetitive Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (rTMS)
Rosenberg (2002) added rTMS to standard antidepressant therapy in 12 patients with
PTSD and found that depression responded strongly but that PTSD benefits were
minimal.
Osuch (2009) studied rTMS as an adjunct to exposure therapy and existing medications
in 9 patients with co-morbid major depression and PTSD in a double-blind crossover
study that included a sham arm and found a decrease in hyperarousal symptoms alone.
Cohen (2004) reported findings of an RCT that showed significant improvement in PTSD
core symptoms of re-experiencing and avoidance, but only when a 10-Hertz treatment
was delivered (note that Osuch utilized no more than 5-Hertz strength).
Boggio et al. (2009) studied the efficacy of 20 Hz rTMS of either the right or left
dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (DLPFC) as compared to sham rTMS in 30 patients with
chronic PTSD in a double blind, placebo-controlled trial with a sham arm. Both active
conditions—20 Hz rTMS of the left and right DLPFC—induced a significant decrease in
PTSD symptoms, based on the PTSD Checklist and Treatment Outcome PTSD Scale;
however, right rTMS induced a larger effect than left rTMS. Improvements in PTSD
symptoms were still significant at the 3-month follow-up. Neuropsychological evaluation
showed that active 20 Hz rTMS was not associated with cognitive worsening in patients
with PTSD.
Vagal Nerve Stimulation (VNS)
There is one open pilot study of Vagal Nerve Stimulation for treatment-resistant anxiety
disorders (George, 2008) that included two patients with PTSD. This study does not
provide sufficient evidence on which to base a recommendation regarding the use of
VNS in the treatment of PTSD.
Although there has been significant interest and widespread utilization of CES in the
treatment of PTSD, there is insufficient evidence for or against its use.
Conclusion:
While intriguing, the findings from these studies are limited by a small number of
patients and co-morbid symptomatology and do not provide adequate support to
recommend any of the biomedical somatic interventions as a first-line treatment for
PTSD. rTMS and ECT have had initial evidence of possible benefits in chronic, treatmentresistant PTSD; however, more studies in larger patient populations are needed.
Module I-2 - Interventions
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October, 2010
EVIDENCE TABLE
1
2
3
4
Evidence
Any Biomedical Somatic Therapies
for first-line treatment of PTSD
ECT – for PTSD co-morbid with
severe refractory depression
rTMS Good PTSD outcome at higher
frequency
Primarily for co-morbid depression
added to antidepressant. Depression
benefit robust
VNS - vagus nerve stimulation
(VNS) for treatment-resistant anxiety
disorders
VA/DoD Clinical Practice Guideline for the
Management of Post-Traumatic Stress
Source
LE
QE
SR
D
Watts, 2007
Margoob, 2010
Burt ,2002
Cohen, 2004
Boggio, 2009
Rosenberg, 2002
Osuch, 2009
II-3
II-2
III
I
I
I
II-1
Fair
B
Poor
Good
B
George, 2008
I
Fair
Poor
I
LE=Level of Evidence QE=Quality of Evidence; SR= Strength of Recommendation (see Appendix A)
E2. Acupuncture
OBJECTIVE
Improve management of PTSD symptoms, particularly when accompanied by associated
symptoms of chronic pain, depression, insomnia, anxiety, or substance abuse.
BACKGROUND
The practice of needling in acupuncture to mediate pain, one of the well-accepted
indications for acupuncture, is thought to occur through the production of endogenous
monoamines and neuropeptides. Besides activating neurohumoral pathways,
acupuncture stimulates neural connections associated with the Autonomic Nervous
System, prefrontal cortex, and limbic system, all structures thought to regulate the
pathophysiology of PTSD. Acupuncture investigation for the treatment of PTSD has been
limited to, at best, two (English) RCTs. However, symptomatic relief of disturbances
associated with PTSD symptom clusters enhances the consideration of the use of this
modality.
RECOMMENDATIONS
1. Acupuncture may be considered as treatment for patients with PTSD. [B]
DISCUSSION
Research focusing on the efficacy of acupuncture is still relatively limited. The few
available studies are well done and demonstrate significant improvement in both PTSD
and PTSD-associated symptomatology. A larger numbers of studies exist, concluding
acupuncture’s efficacy in pain management, insomnia, depression, and substance abuse.
Hollifield et al. (2007) evaluated the potential efficacy and acceptability of acupuncture
for the treatment of PTSD. Individuals diagnosed with PTSD were randomized to an
acupuncture treatment group (ACU), a cognitive-behavioral therapy group (CBT), or a
wait list control group (WLC). The primary outcome measure was self-reported PTSD
symptoms at baseline, end treatment, and 3-month follow-up. Repeated measures
MANOVA was used to detect predicted Group X Time effects in both intent-to-treat (ITT)
and treatment completion models. Compared with the WLC condition in the ITT model,
acupuncture provided large treatment effects for PTSD (F [1, 46] = 12.60; p < 0.01;
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Cohen's d = 1.29), similar in magnitude to group CBT (F [1, 47] = 12.45; p < 0.01; d =
1.42) (ACU vs. CBT, d = 0.29). Symptom reductions at end treatment were maintained
at the 3-month follow-up for both interventions.
A recent unpublished DoD/VA RCT studied 55 active duty members with PTSD,
randomized to PTSD treatment as usual (TAU) and PTSD treatment as usual plus eight
90 minute acupuncture sessions delivered twice weekly for four weeks (TAU +
Acupuncture). Outcome measures included: Clinician-Administered PTSD Scale (CAPS),
PTSD Checklist (PCL), Becks Depression Inventory (BDI I-II), Numeric Rating Scale for
Pain (NRS), and SF-36v2. Follow-up was at baseline and 4, 8, and 12 weeks postrandomization. Compared to usual PTSD care, a 4-week course of twice-weekly
acupuncture resulted in significantly greater improvement in PTSD symptoms (Pre-post
ES 1.4-1.6 versus usual care ES 0.12-0.74), significant improvement in depression, and
significant improvement in pain.
EVIDENCE TABLE
1
Evidence
Source
LE
QE
SR
There is some evidence that
acupuncture may be helpful with the
management of Post-Traumatic
Stress Disorder, acute or chronic.
Hollified et al., 2007
I
Good
B
LE=Level of Evidence QE=Quality of Evidence; SR= Strength of Recommendation (see Appendix A)
F. COMPLEMENTARY AND ALTERNATIVE MEDICINE
OBJECTIVE
Identify interventions derived from traditional and nontraditional complementary
approaches that may provide effective first-line or adjunctive treatment for PTSD.
BACKGROUND
Complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) is a group of diverse medical practices,
products, and systems that are not generally considered part of conventional medicine.
While there is limited evidence to suggest that any of the CAM therapies listed below are
efficacious for PTSD, these interventions may be of value in dealing with other
symptoms (particularly those associated with hyperarousal) or co-morbid conditions.
There is little evidence that these interventions are harmful. Some patients who may be
reluctant to accept mental health labels or interventions may be more accepting of these
novel treatment approaches. CAM interventions are affordable and generally accessible
in communities across the nation. Many CAM therapies are practiced in a group setting,
which may have the added benefit of increasing socialization. CAM programs may be
engaged as a family that could increase social support and reduce stress for all family
members. CAM approaches often provide an increased sense of mastery and control that
may promote greater resilience.
Since complementary medicine may relate to particular cultural backgrounds or other
belief systems, health professionals should be aware of, and sensitive to, the needs and
desires of the patient and the family. Health professionals should be willing to discuss
the effectiveness of therapy and different options of care within the context of the
current healthcare system.
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CAM Modalities:
CAM modalities are typically grouped into broad categories reflecting putative
mechanism of action: However, this is more for convenience than any specific biologic
underpinnings. Many modalities, such as acupuncture, span more than one category.
Generally consistent with the schema offered by the National Center for Complimentary
and Alternative Medicine these groups are:
Natural Products (Biologically Based Practices): Biologically based therapies that
use natural substances (e.g., herbs, foods, vitamins, dietary supplements, homeopathic
remedies) to promote healing and wellness.
Mind-Body Medicine: Approaches that seek to enhance general well-being through
balancing mind and body. These practices emphasize the use of the mind, the body, or a
combination of mental and physical activities to harmonize mind-body functioning to
promote health and well-being. Those that focus primarily on mental activity include
prayer and guided imagery. Those that emphasize the integration of mind and body for
experiencing more fundamental processes underlying cognitive reflection include
meditation, yoga, Tai Chi, breath-oriented therapies, and expressive arts therapies (such
as dance, music, and art therapies).
Biofeedback (both neurofeedback that trains one to regulate attentional states via
regulation of beta, alpha, theta, and delta EEG spectral analysis, as well as
psychophysiological regulation of HR, Respiration, SC, EMG, and HRV) could, like
hypnosis, be considered standard approaches to psychotherapy, and be included under
that category. Research has shown positive outcomes for biofeedback for pain, sleep,
and anxiety. Various relaxation skills (such as progressive muscle relaxation) are utilized
as part of biofeedback.
Manipulation and Body Based Practices (Exercise and Movement): These ractices
are based on the manipulation of one or more parts or systems of the body.
Manipulation of another’s body structure including bones and joints, soft tissue,
circulatory, and lymphatic systems are found in such disciplines as chiropractic spinal
and joint manipulation, osteopathic manipulation of joints and soft tissue, massage
therapy such as lymphatic drainage, deep and connective tissue manipulation such as
Rolfing, and stimulation of specific points such as reflexology and acupressure. Active
movement disciplines that focus on reducing pain through improving movement
functioning use practitioners’ guidance through hands-on feedback or verbal instruction
as is found in Movement Therapies such as the Alexander Technique, Feldenkrais, Laban
Movement Analysis, and others.
Energy medicine: Energy-focused practices that involve connecting with and balancing
energetic fields that purportedly surround and penetrate the human body (e.g., Qi gong,
Reiki, Therapeutic touch).
Whole Medical Systems: Traditional medicine systems based upon comprehensive
systems of theory and practice for improving overall health and correcting health
imbalances that focus on both improving overall lifestyle (diet exercise, social and emotional
functioning), and specific methods of herbal and somatic interventions, such as Ayurvedic
Medicine, Traditional Chinese Medicine (including acupuncture), and naturopathy (which
combines disciplines from the above categories).
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RECOMMENDATIONS
1. There is insufficient evidence to recommend CAM approaches as first line
treatments for PTSD. [I]
2. CAM approaches that facilitate a relaxation response (e.g. mindfulness, yoga,
acupuncture, massage, and others) may be considered for adjunctive treatment of
hyperarousal symptoms, although there is no evidence that these are more
effective than standard stress inoculation techniques. [I]
3. CAM approaches may be considered as adjunctive approaches to address some comorbid conditions (e.g. acupuncture for pain). [C]
4. CAM may facilitate engagement in medical care and may be considered in some
patients who refuse evidence-based treatments. However, providers should
discuss the evidence for effectiveness and risk-benefits of different options, and
ensure that the patient is appropriately informed.
DISCUSSION
Surveys of CAM utilization (meditation, yoga, massage, and deep breathing exercises)
among the general US population indicate significant increases in acceptance of these
practices over the past decade (Barnes et al., 2008). A recent White House Commission
report on CAM highlighted the need for continued rigorous research regarding these
approaches (White House Commission, 2002).
Although Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM) approaches to the treatment
of many medical and mental health diagnoses, including PTSD, are in widespread use,
the research base to support their effectiveness is far from complete. Evidence for their
use for PTSD is sparse, yet numerous CAM modalities have been shown to be effective
for symptomatic relief related to insomnia, anxiety, pain ( AHRQ, 2009), and various
somatic presentations associated with PTSD.
F1. Natural Products (Biologically Based Practices)
Herbal (phytotherapy) and dietary supplements have been used for the treatment of
PTSD. Herbs and supplements are believed to boost health functioning through
micronutrients that are directly used by body tissues, either targeting a specific organ or
system, or through balancing systems that interact with each other. Although individual
consumers may purchase individual herbs or vitamins, practitioners typically recommend
combinations based upon both the suspected pathology as well as the patient in order to
boost their host resistance. An example of specific over-the-counter supplements is
omega-3 fatty acid docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), that affects catecholamines and
proinflammatory cytokines, and that has been shown in several RTCs to decrease the
perception of stress (Bradbury, 2004), improve mood (Lin & SU, 2007; Mischoulon et al,
2009), and decrease symptoms of ADHD in children (Johnson et al., 2009; Sinn &
Bryan, 2007).
Herbal remedies such as Kava Kava have been shown to reduce anxiety (Pitler & Ernst,
2003), while others (valerian root, typically in combinations of herbs) has been shown to
improve sleep (Bent et al., 2006). St. John's Wart has also been used to treat mild
depression with some benefit compared to placebo (Linde, Berner, & Kriston, 2008). Although
patients frequently prefer phytotherapy over prescription medication, often claiming
fewer side effects, herbal benefits are typically not as effective as prescription
medications, their safety has been questioned, and these have not been well studied in
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patients specifically diagnoses with PTSD. Natural precursors to Seratonin and GABA
sold over the counter have also shown reductions in anxiety, yet also not within the
context of PTSD.
Homeopathic theory is entirely different from herbal medicine and supplements,
although both are widely utilized throughout the world. Samuel Hahnemann
(Hahnemann, 1996) described how substances that in larger quantities acted as a toxin,
in specifically prepared microdoses served to stimulate the body’s immune system to
repel those symptoms that arise in consort with exposure to a toxin. Each toxic
substance known to man has its symptom picture, and therefore a homeopathic
preparation of that toxin is thought to stimulate the body to overcome those symptoms.
A homeopathic practitioner takes an extensive history in order to best understand which
single remedy (or in some cases combinations of remedies) best accounts for the cluster
of symptoms, and therefore would be most optimal for stimulating the body’s defenses
against that symptom cluster. There are several RCT studies for anxiety, sleep, and pain
in medical journals, but nothing directly for PTSD or in the context of PTSD Moreover,
there is a great deal of controversy regarding the research on homeopathic efficacy, with
most studies failing to find an overall benefit (Linde, Jonas, Melchart, & Willich, 2001).
Although there have been some studies of their effectiveness for addressing some
components of PTSD, the results of this body of research provides insufficient evidence
to draw firm conclusions about their direct effectiveness for PTSD. In addition, the
quality and purity of herbals and dietary supplements available in the United States vary
widely, further complicating their study and use.
F2. Mind-Body Medicine
Often referred to as “Mind-Body” approaches to health and well-being, methods such as
meditation, yoga, and Tai Chi have been used for thousands of years by Eastern
religious traditions for spiritual development. They share a common goal of
enlightenment – that is, experiencing existence “as it is” prior to our conceptual biases
stemming from our needs, fears, and desires. Traditional practice involves developing
the ability to become fully immersed in the moment at hand, without cognitive reflection
or pursuing or reacting to one’s fears or desires. This practice allows one to break out of
habitual cognitive and behavioral patterns and become more open and responsive to the
situation at hand. It is also thought to lead to a more harmonious mental and physical
state of being. However, in the alternative healing culture of modern Western society,
these traditional practices have been taken out of their original religious context and
greatly simplified to appeal to modern social interests. Several meta-analyses and
reviews have shown physical and psychological health benefits from Meditation, Yoga,
and Tai Chi. However there is a lack of rigorous RCTs and head to head comparisons of
these approaches compared to other interventions for mental health benefits (Ospina,
2007).
Meditation and relaxation techniques, based upon Buddhist meditation practices such as
Zen or Vipassana, have been adapted in the West to assist with specific concerns such
as anxiety and pain. One such approach, Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction, combines
elements of yogic relaxation techniques and Buddhist awareness enhancement in a
simple, concrete, and brief structured format that is easy for someone not steeped in
Eastern traditions to learn. Transcendental Meditation™, based on Yogic traditions, has
been used to treat anxiety and depression in Vietnam veterans (Brooks 1985). There is
a growing literature of RCTs showing meditation to be effective for enhancing attention,
reducing anxiety and stress, improving sleep, and helping to manage pain (Grossman,
Niemann, Schmidt, & Walach, 2004; Kabat-Zinn, Lipworth, & Burney, 1985; Davidson et
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al, 2003). However, there is no published RCT in support of the use of meditation for
PTSD per se.
Yoga is really a collection of practices to assist one to become “yoked with God.”
Although there are several Ashrams that emphasize this collection of practices for
spiritual enhancement, for the most part, “yoga” is synonymous in the West with Hathastyle Yoga. Hatha Yoga is a series of poses that help stretch muscles, improve tone and
alignment, and teach one to breathe into and release one’s discomfort. Other types of
yoga, such as Pranayama breathing techniques or the restorative and recuperative Yoga
Nidra approach, are typically employed as part of Hatha Yoga classes in the West. Many
RCTs have been conducted showing the value of yogic practices for improving sleep and
reducing anxiety and stress (Kirkwood, tai Rampes, Tuffrey, et al, 2005; Sarang &
Telles, 2006). However, there are currently no RCTs published in support of the use of
yoga for PTSD per se.
Tai Chi Chuan (literally translated as “Grand Ultimate Fist”) was initially developed as a
highly effective martial art. However, two hundred years ago a version was created that
could be widely practiced by the general populous in order to improve physical health
and mental well-being. The series of slow continuous movements synchronized with the
expansion and contraction of one’s breath, is believed to harmonize mind and body in
harmony with one’s surroundings. Stemming from the Taoist tradition to enhance health
and foster a sense of unity with mind, body, and nature, Chi Kung (also transliterated as
Qi Gung), is a series of exercises that include breath and movement. Adopted as part of
the Traditional Chinese Medical Model, Chi Kung Exercises are said to help balance and
circulate the “chi” (life-energy). Several RCTs have shown Tai Chi (Jin, 1989), and Chi
Kung to be effective in improving a sense of calm and well-being, improve sleep, and
improve physical health (Wang, Bannuru, Ramel, Kupelnick, et al, 2010). However, the
evidence for benefits of Tai Chi compared to regular exercise is lacking.
F3. Manipulation and Body-Based Practices (Exercise and Movement)
Although hardly fitting the definition of a CAM modality, exercise used for psychological
well-being is outside of the standard of practice for psychotherapy. However, exercise
has been advocated as an integrative approach in the prevention and treatment of PTSD
and other combat-related mental health problems. Wald and Taylor (2008) examined
the relationship between baseline physical fitness and the development of PTSD
symptoms (as measured by the Impact of Event Scale) in a group of 31 soldiers
undergoing military survival training. They found that higher levels of pre-study physical
fitness were inversely related to both trait anxiety levels and IES scores. Studies have
shown that pre-trauma levels of exercise tend to decline after developing PTSD (de Assis
et al., 2008). Aside from PTSD, depression was a frequent condition for which exercise
therapy was applied. The majority of reviewed studies utilized an aerobic exercise
regimen—e.g., walking, running, stationary cycling (Diaz & Motta, 2008; Manger &
Motta, 2005). One study emphasized the importance of participant selection of the
specific type of exercises that would constitute their treatment (Donta, et al, 2003). The
studies reviewed here utilized both group and individual exercise formats. All studies
demonstrated either a reduction in symptoms from baseline PTSD measures or relative
to a placebo or control group, but the effects were generally modest and did not always
extend to other mental health disorders, such as anxiety and depression. A primary
methodological limitation of the papers reviewed here is that exercise interventions were
rarely conducted in isolation from other psychotherapeutic approaches.
Massage and skeletal manipulation has long been used for reducing the ill effects of
physical and mental stress. Deprivation of touch has been seen as problematic for
infants, and massage adherents claim that adults as well benefit from non-sexual
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massage-style contact. In addition, Swedish-style massage targets the lymphatic system
as well as intending to help relax large surface musculature. Deep Tissue and Sports
Massage targets deeper skeletal musculature and connective tissue to correct structural
imbalances. Many studies have shown the value of such approaches for at least transient
stress and pain reduction and in support of sleep and anxiety. However, no research has
demonstrated that these modalities are effective for PTSD per se.
F4. Energy medicine
There are a variety of CAM systems where a practitioner helps a patient to correct
energy imbalances in their bodies. Practitioners place their hands over or directly upon
various energy foci, and attempt to shift excess energy to deficient areas (Yogic Chakrabased approaches), and remove blockages (Traditional Chinese Medicine Chi-based
approaches). Acupressure and Shiatsu are mostly based on Traditional Chinese
Medicine, but use pressure on specific acupuncture points rather than needles. Reiki and
Healing Touch are more energy based, and often the practitioner places their hands
above the body of the client, sensing the energy and attempting to allow the energy
areas to come into a balance. Chi Kung (Qi Gung) can be utilized by a Chi Kung master
trained in Traditional Chinese medicine to assist another person. Many hospitals in China
have departments of Traditional Chinese Medicine which include a Chi Kung Master who
attempts to balance the chi in the patient by either direct hands-on methods or sitting
nearby and placing the hands toward the patient.
Reiki and Johrei are both energy medicine techniques that originated in Japan. In Reiki,
the practitioner places his hands on or near the person receiving treatment with the
intent to transmit ki, believed to be life-force energy. Johrei, a form of energy healing
that originated in Japan, involves the practitioner facing the person receiving the
treatment, where “spiritual energy” is transmitted through the practitioner (Brooks, et
al., 2006).
There are no current controlled studies examining Reiki or johrei in patients with PTSD
or Acute Stress Disorder. A small number of low-quality studies have been conducted,
showing positive improvement in conditions commonly co-morbid with PTSD, such as
depression (Collinge, Wentworth, and Sabo, 2005) or anxiety (Brooks et al., 2006).
A recent systematic review of randomized clinical trials of Reiki noted that the currently
available RCTs are “scarce” and lack independent replication (Lee, Pittler, and Ernst,
2008). The studies that exist suffer from methodological flaws related to sample size,
inadequate design, and poor reporting.
F5. Whole Medical Systems
There are two major comprehensive traditional medical systems, and several minor
medical systems that integrate lifestyle and intervention across multiple dimensions.
Traditional Chinese Medicine utilizes nutrition, exercise, emotional balance, massage,
herbs and acupuncture to restore balance to the body in relationship to one’s
environment. Chinese medicine has a sophisticated system of diagnosis through
assessment of various combinations of pulses, and other physical and mental signs and
symptoms. Traditionally, specialists focus on herbal treatment, acupuncture treatment,
massage or Chi Kung. However, Western schools teach a combination of these and
modern practitioners in the United States typically focus on lifestyle, acupuncture and
herbal treatments. Ayurvedic Medicine also emphasizes a healthy lifestyle, including diet
and yoga, and offers supportive intervention through expunging toxins, tonifying, and
balancing, primarily through herbal treatments. Less popular and less extensively
developed systems include traditional healing systems from almost every culture on
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earth such as Native American healing traditions, that also focus on living in harmony
with one’s environment, supported by spiritual healers and herbal remedies. Although
there is a great deal of research conducted on aspects of these healing systems (such as
acupuncture, or the use of herbs), assessment of comprehensive systems are difficult to
study, and lacking in the literature, especially with regard to mental health in general,
and PTSD in particular.
F6. Other Approaches
Animal-Assisted Therapy (AAT)
AAT is a goal-directed intervention in which an animal that meets specific criteria is an
integral part of the treatment process. AAT is delivered and/or directed by a
health/human service provider, working within the scope of his or her profession. AAT is
designed to promote improvement in human physical, social, emotional, and/or
cognitive functioning. AAT is provided in a variety of settings and may be group or
individual in nature. Commonly used animals include dogs and horses. There are a
growing number of programs throughout the United States that utilize animals as part of
PTSD treatment, including programs specifically for veterans. There are two major
approaches to AAT. One simply offers the opportunity to bond with an animal. The other
is more structured and occurs within a therapeutic environment. AAT for those suffering
from PTSD often ask the patient to engage non-verbally with one or more animals in a
structured activity, such as approaching the animal in a safe manner that engages
rather than frightens them and lead them through an obstacle course without touching
them. This requires developing trust, rapport, and non-verbal communication. Evidence
of AAT for PTSD is ongoing but at this point lacks support.
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MANAGEMENT OF SPECIFIC SYMPTOMS
This section includes recommendations regarding treatment interventions for a selected
list of physical symptoms that are common in patients presenting with post-traumatic
stress symptoms.
Survivors of trauma may not complain directly of PTSD symptoms, such as reexperiencing or avoidance. Instead, they may complain of sleeping problems. When
seeking to identify PTSD, providers should consider asking specific questions about sleep
problems, (including flashbacks and nightmares), pain (including musculoskeletal,
headache), or hyperarousal (including an exaggerated startle response or sleep
disturbance). Many individuals with PTSD experience sleep disturbances (trouble falling
asleep or problems with waking up frequently after falling asleep). Chronic pain and
insomnia often occur simultaneously, with the vast majority of chronic pain patients
complaining of interrupted or poor quality sleep. When a person with PTSD experiences
sleep disturbances, using alcohol as a way to self-medicate becomes a double-edged
sword. Excessive alcohol use can impair one's ability to sleep restfully and to cope with
trauma memories and stress. The need to improve sleep in these patients is clear, given
increasing evidence that sleep disturbance is associated with heightened pain sensitivity
and elevated disability.
Chronic pain is frequently observed in patients with PTSD and is often associated with a
significant level of affective distress and physical disability. Chronic pain may develop
because of an injury sustained in a traumatic event, such as a motor vehicle accident,
work-related injury, or injury in military combat. Patients with chronic pain, particularly
headache disorders and fibromyalgia (FM), associated with psychological traumas need a
special management strategy. Diagnosis of headache disorders and FM in traumatized
patients and obtaining the clinical history of a traumatic event or diagnosing PTSD in
chronic pain patients are of great importance.
A. Sleep Disturbances
BACKGROUND
Many patients with PTSD have had insomnia for years, including broken sleep, frequent
awakenings, and nightmares, all of which contribute to poor sleep quality. Hyperarousal
behaviors, part of PTSD symptoms for many people, can be stronger at night and
contribute to insomnia. Sleep problems in traumatized patients may also reflect comorbid conditions, some of which may be of new-onset (pain may be prominent among
these).
There is no evidence to suggest that insomnia, as a component of traumatic stress
reactions, should be managed differently than insomnia associated with other conditions.
Clinical experience does, however, show that some psychologically traumatized patients
dread sleep because of intense nightmares.
Research demonstrates that non-pharmacological sleep strategies yield outcomes equal
or superior to those obtained with hypnotics alone or hypnotics combined with nonpharmacological strategies. Long-term outcomes are better following nonpharmacological interventions. The aim of sleep management is to establish a regular,
normalized sleep-wake pattern.
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RECOMMENDATIONS (BASED ON CONSENSUS OF THE WORKING GROUP CLINICAL EXPERTS)
Sleep Disturbance
1. Encourage patients to practice good sleep hygiene, including:
• Restricting the night-time sleep period to about eight hours
• Waking at a regular time
• Arising from bed at a regular time
• Avoiding going to bed too early
• Avoiding alcohol
• Avoiding stimulants, caffeinated beverages, power/energy drinks,
nicotine, and over-the-counter medications
• Avoiding stimulating activities, light, noise, and temperature extremes
before bedtime (e.g., exercise, video games, T.V.) or in the sleeping
area
• Reducing (to less than 30 minutes), or abolishing, daytime naps
• Practicing relaxation techniques
• Engaging in moderate exercise, but not immediately before bedtime
2. Offer Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Insomnia, which may include:
• Educating about proper sleep habits and sleep needs
• Correcting false and unrealistic beliefs/concerns about sleep
• Identifying and addressing anxious, automatic thoughts which disrupt
sleep
3. Consider adjunctive therapy for nightmares using prazosin. [B]
4. Any significant change in sleep patterns should trigger clinical reassessment in
order to rule out worsening or new onset of co-morbid conditions
Insomnia
1. Monitor symptoms to assess improvement or deterioration and reassess
accordingly.
2. Explore cause(s) for insomnia, including co-morbid conditions.
3. Begin treatment for insomnia with non-pharmacological treatments, including
sleep hygiene and cognitive behavioral treatment (see recommendation for Sleep
Disturbances).
4. The selection of sleep agents for the treatment of insomnia in PTSD patients may
be impacted by other treatment decisions (e.g., medications already prescribed for
the treatment of PTSD, depression, TBI, pain, or concurrent substance
abuse/withdrawal) and social/environmental/logistical concerns associated with
deployment.
a. Trazodone may be helpful in management of insomnia and may also
supplement the action of other antidepressants.
b. Hypnotics are a second-line approach to the management of insomnia
and should only be used for short periods of time. Should hypnotic
therapy be indicated, the newer generation of non-benzodiazepines (e.g.
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zolpidem, eszopiclone, ramelteon) may have a safety advantage by virtue
of their shorter half-life and lower risk of dependency. Patients should be
warned of and monitored for the possibility of acute confusional
states/bizarre sleep behaviors associated with hypnotic use.
Benzodiazepines can be effective in chronic insomnia but may have
significant adverse effects (confusion, sedation, intoxication) and
significant risk of dependency.
c. Atypical antipsychotics should be avoided due to potential adverse
effects but may be of value when agitation or other symptoms are severe.
d. If nightmares remain severe, consider adjunctive treatment with prazosin
[B]
e. If symptoms persist or worsen, refer for evaluation and treatment of
insomnia
Additional information of management of insomnia can be found in:
VHA Pharmacy Benefit Management (PBM) guideline for Insomnia:
http://www.pbm.va.gov/ClinicalRecommendations.aspx
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Sleep Hygiene Patient Education
• Avoid or limit caffeinated products, nicotine, and alcohol, especially later in the day.
• Avoid drinking excess liquids after supper to avoid having to get up during the night to go
•
•
•
•
•
•
•
•
•
•
to the bathroom.
Avoid or limit daytime naps to 30 minutes in the early afternoon before 3:00 pm.
Go to bed only when sleepy. Sleep only as much as needed to feel refreshed. Staying in
bed longer can result in fragmented/shallow sleep on following nights.
Create a dark, quiet, temperature-controlled bedroom (e.g., change the number of
blankets you use; use earplugs; close the door if noisy).
Avoid heavy meals within 2 hours of bedtime; a light snack might help if hungry.
Maintain a regular daily schedule of activities, including bedtime and awakening times, 7
days/week. Use an alarm clock if needed.
Exercise regularly during the daytime. Avoid active exercise in the late evening when it is
close to bedtime.
Use the bed and bedroom only for sleeping or sexual activity. Do not eat, work, or watch
television while in bed.
• If you cannot sleep, if possible, get out of bed and go to another room; read or
engage in other quiet activities; or do other relaxation activities before
attempting to sleep again. Return to bed only when sleepy Repeat if
necessary. Do not watch the clock; turn the clock around or cover it up
Solve problems before retiring. If not possible, write down your worries, plans, and
strategies during the early evening and not at bedtime.
Correct extrinsic factors, such as environmental disruption (e.g., pets or snoring partner).
Establish a “wind-down” routine going to bed and develop and maintain bedtime “rituals”
that make going to sleep a familiar routine; for example:
• Set time to relax before bed with 20-30 minutes of relaxation (e.g., soft music,
meditation, breathing exercises
• Take a warm bath
• Have a light snack, which could include: warm milk, foods high in tryptophan,
such as bananas, carbohydrates, which can help induce sleep
Adapted from Petit L, et al. Age Ageing 2003; 32: 22. Wilson S. and Nutt D. Prescriber 2005; 19: 29-41 Wolkove
N, et al. CMAJ 2007; 176: 1449-54.
DISCUSSION
Use of Benzodiazepines for Sleep Disturbance
In a small, double-blind, placebo-controlled temazepam trial in acute accident/injury
victims at a trauma center (Mellman et al., 2002), temazepam 30 mg was administered
for 5 nights, tapered for 2 nights, then discontinued. At the 6-week follow-up, 6/11
temazepam subjects and 3/11 placebo subjects met PTSD symptom criteria. Sleep
improvement was noted, however, for the duration of the trial. However, in a small
randomized, controlled trial, alprazolam did not have substantial benefit for PTSD or for
nightmares, although it did improve anxiety (Braun, 1990). In another small single-blind
controlled study, clonazepam did not demonstrate significant benefit for sleep
difficulties, including nightmares (Cates, 2004).
An argument can be made for short-term use of a benzodiazepine for the purpose of
reducing hyperarousal symptoms in the immediate trauma aftermath, in order to help
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normalize sleep cycles and minimize anxiety. Longer-term use of benzodiazepines,
however, should be avoided, as the limited data available show that prolonged use of
benzodiazepines (1-6 months in duration) is associated with a higher rate of subsequent
PTSD (Gelpin et al., 1996).
Benzodiazepines use should be considered relatively contraindicated in combat veterans
with PTSD because of the very high co-morbidity of combat-related PTSD with alcohol
misuse and substance use disorders (upwards of 50 percent of co-morbidity) and
potential problems with tolerance and dependence. Once initiated in combat veterans,
benzodiazepines can be very difficult, if not impossible, to discontinue, due to significant
withdrawal symptoms compounded by the underlying PTSD symptoms.
Other agents that have improved insomnia are trazodone, mirtazapine, and olanzapine.
There are no trials of non-benzodiazepine hypnotics in the treatment of sleep disorders
associated with PTSD.
Use of Prazosin for Sleep Disturbance
Five publications (Raskind 2000, 2002, 2003; Taylor 2006 & 2008) that examined the
role of antiadrenergic medications, commonly used for treating hypertension, in the
treatment of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) were identified in the peer-reviewed
literature.
Although Taylor et al. (2006) and Raskind et al. (2003) were excluded from the analyses
(due to the small number of subjects that did not meet inclusion criteria), both have
shown positive results in reducing psychological distress, specifically to trauma cues
(Taylor et al., 2006). Patients taking prozosin showed significant improvement on the
Clinician-Administered PTSD Scale (Raskind, 2003).
Raskind et al. (2007) evaluated prazosin effects on trauma nightmares, sleep quality,
global clinical status, dream characteristics, and co-morbid depression. Forty veterans
(mean age 56 +/- 9) with chronic PTSD and distressing trauma nightmares and sleep
disturbance were randomized to evening prazosin (13.3 +/- 3 mg/day) or placebo for 8
weeks. In the evaluable sample (n = 34), primary outcome measures demonstrated that
prazosin was significantly superior to placebo for reducing trauma nightmares and
improving sleep quality. Prazosin shifted dream characteristics from those typical of
trauma-related nightmares toward those typical of normal dreams.
Taylor et al. (2008) was a double blind, placebo-controlled cross-over study of 13
civilians with trauma-related PTSD. Prazosin was rapidly titrated to 3 mg/night during
each 3-week treatment phase. Prazosin, compared with placebo, significantly increased
total sleep time by 94 min (p <0.01), and total rapid eye movement (REM) sleep and
mean REM duration were also longer with prazosin. Reductions in trauma nightmares,
total PTSD symptoms (using the PCL-C), and CGIC scores were significantly changed
compared with placebo.
The results of these studies were consistent and positive, suggesting that prazosin
therapy is safe and is associated with reduction of nighttime symptoms of PTSD.
Prazosin is an effective and well-tolerated treatment for trauma nightmares, sleep
disturbance, and global clinical status in veterans with chronic PTSD.
Ruff and colleagues (2009) found in an observational study that prazosin combined with
sleep hygiene counseling was an effective initial treatment for a group of OIF/OEF
veterans (n=74) with headaches associated with histories of mild TBI from exposure to
an explosion in combat and with PTSD. Prazosin was well tolerated. Nine weeks after
providing sleep counseling and initiating an increasing dosage schedule of prazosin at
bedtime, 65 veterans had reduced headache intensity and frequency, reduced daytime
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sleepiness, and improved cognitive performance. These gains were maintained 6 months
later.
Sleep hygiene counseling is beneficial in terms of improving sleep duration and reducing
the time it takes for a person to fall asleep (Morin et al., 1999). By blocking nightmares
in people with PTSD, prazosin prolongs sleep duration by preventing sleep interruptions.
Thus, the two interventions may have synergized, with sleep hygiene counseling
reducing the time it took for veterans to fall asleep and prazosin prolonging sleep.
A systematic review by Dierks et al. (2007) did not find any additional publication to the
above. The authors concluded that despite various limitations, all of the studies showed
significant improvements in the sleep-related symptoms of PTSD following the addition
of prazosin therapy, based on the Clinician-Administered PTSD Scale recurrent
distressing dreams item and the Clinical Global Impression of Change scale.
EVIDENCE TABLE
Evidence
1
2
Prazosin improved sleep quality,
reduced trauma nightmares
Benzodiazepines for sleep
disturbance, insomnia
Source
LE
QE
NB
SR
Dierks et al., 2007 §
Raskind et al., 2002, 2007
Taylor et al., 2008
Gelpin et al., 1996
Mellman et al., 1998
I
Good
Mod
B
II-2
Fair
Small/
Neg
C
LE =Level of Evidence; QE = Quality of Evidence; SR = Strength of Recommendation; NB=Net benefit (see Appendix A)
Table I - 11 Pharmacological Studies - Prazosin for Sleep Disturbances
Author, Year
Raskind et al., 2002
Raskind et al., 2003
Raskind et al., 2007
Taylor et al., 2006
Taylor et al., 2008
Results
Significant improvement in
dream scores after 8 weeks of
prazosin
Significant improvement,
CAPS, CGI.
Prazosin > placebo
No difference
Reduction in global PTSD
illness severity
Reductions of nighttime,
significantly increased total
sleep time
n
Trauma
LE
QE
NB
59
Retrospective study
- Veterans
II-2
Poor
Mod
10
Veterans
I
Poor
Mod
34
Veterans
I
Good
Mod
11
Civilian
II
Poor
Mod
13
Civilian
I
Fair
Mod
LE =Level of Evidence; QE = Quality of Evidence; \NB=Net benefit (see Appendix A)
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B. Pain
BACKGROUND
There is a growing body of research that indicates clearly that PTSD and chronic pain
frequently co-occur. People with both PTSD and chronic pain tend to have greater
distress and impairment compared to those with only one of these conditions, and
assessment and treatment are more complicated. It is therefore important to include a
pain assessment (acute or chronic) in the examination of patient with ASD or PTSD, and
to consider the extent to which PTSD symptoms may be influenced by pain or the extent
to which pain symptoms are being exacerbated by PTSD.
Certain types of chronic pain are more common in individuals who have experienced
specific traumas. Among adult survivors of physical, psychological, or sexual abuse the
most common forms of chronic pain involve: pain in the pelvis, lower back, face, and
bladder; fibromyalgia; interstitial cystitis; and non-remitting whiplash syndromes.
Chronic pain is a common problem among returning soldiers. In service persons from
OEF/OIF, head, neck, back, shoulder, and knee pain have been found to be most
common (Lew, 2009). Co-morbidity of physical and emotional problems; and in
particular the combination of chronic pain, PTSD symptoms, and post-concussion
syndrome (PCS); is unique to the OEF/OIF population and appears to be more common
in blast-injured patients and may be more difficult to treat than each condition
independently.
Understanding the development and maintenance of chronic pain and PTSD and how
they interact is of essential importance and is often overlooked in practice. Fear-based
avoidance is a central theme in both PTSD and chronic pain. While the underlying basis
for the avoidance may differ, avoidance behaviors may exacerbate or maintain the
severity of either or both conditions. Although pharmacological agents have been
examined in the treatment of pain and PTSD individually, little is known regarding the
relationship of medication use with functioning in patients with co-morbid conditions.
Pain should be assessed and aggressively treated in early phases of post-trauma, and
providers across disciplines need to work together to develop treatments that are
complementary, based on theory, and supported by empirical evidence.
RECOMMENDATIONS (BASED ON CONSENSUS OF THE WORKING GROUP CLINICAL EXPERTS)
1. Recommend pain assessment using a ‘0 to 10’ scale.
2. Obtain a thorough biopsychosocial history and assess for other medical and
psychiatric problems, including risk assessment for suicidal and homicidal
ideation and misuse of substances, such as drugs or alcohol and over-thecounter and prescription drugs or narcotics.
3. Assessment should include questions about the nature of the pain and likely
etiology (i.e., musculoskeletal and neuropathic), locations, quality, quantity,
triggers, intensity, and duration of the pain, as well as aggravating and relieving
factors.
4. Assessment should include evaluation of the impact of pain on function and
activities, pain-related disability, or interference with daily activities.
5. Assessment should include the identification of avoidance behaviors that
contribute to emotional distress and/or impaired functioning.
6. Management of pain should be multidisciplinary, addressing the physical, social,
psychological, and spiritual components of pain in an individualized treatment
plan that is tailored to the type of pain. [C]
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7. Selection of treatment options should balance the benefits of pain control with
possible adverse effects (especially sedating medications) on the individual’s
ability to participate in, and benefit from, PTSD treatment. [I]
8. Musculoskeletal pain syndromes can respond to correcting the underlying
condition and treatment with non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs).
9. When appropriate, recommend use of non-pharmacological modalities for pain
control, such as biofeedback, massage, imaging therapy, physical therapy, and
complementary alternative modalities (yoga, meditation, acupuncture). [C]
10. Centrally acting medications should be used in caution in patients with PTSD, as
they may cause confusion and deterioration of cognitive performance and
interfere with the recovery process.
a.
5.
If required, lower doses of opioid therapy or other centrally acting
analgesics should be used for short duration with transition to the use of
NSAIDs. [C]
Consider offering Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, which may include:
b.
Encouraging increasing activity by setting goals
c.
Correcting false and unrealistic beliefs/concerns about pain
d.
Teaching cognitive and behavioral coping skills (e.g., activity pacing)
e.
Practicing and consolidation of coping skills and reinforcement of use
DISCUSSION
Prevalence
PTSD and chronic pain disorder are highly co-morbid (Sharp, 2001). The literature
indicates a high degree of co-occurrence between pain and PTSD, regardless of whether
the pain is being assessed in patients with PTSD or PTSD is being assessed in patients
with chronic pain. Chronic pain and PTSD are frequently observed to be co-morbid
following traumatic injury (Bryant et al., 1999; Hickling and Blanchard, 1992). Studies
have shown that PTSD symptoms tend to be elevated in patients with chronic pain and
fibromyalgia (Amir, 1997; Engel, 2000; Sherman, 2000), chronic low back pain, and
other musculoskeletal disorders (Sherman, 2000).
Sharp (2004) described four studies of patient populations that were drawn from MVA
victims, combat veterans, fire fighters, and chronic pain clinic patients. In each instance,
they found a high prevalence of pain in patients diagnosed with PTSD or a high
prevalence of PTSD in patients diagnosed with chronic pain. Schwartz et al. (2006)
noted that between 10 percent and 50 percent of patients treated in tertiary care
settings for chronic pain and related conditions have symptoms that meet criteria for
PTSD. Muse (1986) reported that 9.5 percent of a sample of patients attending a
multidisciplinary chronic pain center met criteria for "post-traumatic pain syndrome."
Norman et al. (2007, 2008) found that self-reported pain levels within 24-48 hours after
serious injury were significantly and strongly associated with the subsequent risk of
PTSD. The author suggests that high levels of peri-traumatic pain could be used to
identify individuals at elevated risk for PTSD following traumatic injury. Similarly, in a
study of 2931 seriously injured patients admitted to acute care hospitals in the United
States, Zatzick and Galea (2007) found that pain after injury was significantly associated
with an increased risk of PTSD one year after hospitalization. The prevalence of PTSD is
particularly high when the chronic pain results directly from a traumatic event (Hickling
& Blanchard, 1992; Taylor & Koch, 1995; Chibnall, 1994; Asmundson et al., 1998; Otis
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et al., 2003), and the presence of both PTSD and chronic pain can increase the symptom
severity of either condition (Otis, 2003).
Beckham (1997) reported that 80 percent of combat Vietnam veterans with PSTD who
completed self-report questionnaires assessing PTSD reported the presence of a chronic
pain condition. Increased levels of PTSD re-experiencing symptoms were associated with
increased pain level and pain-related disability.
The co-occurrence of chronic pain and PTSD has implications for the experience of both
conditions. Persons with co-morbid pain and PTSD may experience less symptom
improvement after treatment for these conditions (Asmundson, 2002; Baker et al.,
1997; Clark et al., 2009; Hickling, 1992; McClean, 2005; Muse, 1986). Patients with
chronic pain related to trauma or PTSD experience more intense pain and affective
distress (Geisser, 1996), higher levels of life interference (Turk et al., 1996), and
greater disability than pain patients without trauma or PTSD (Sherman, 2000).
Co-morbidity of Pain and PTSD (and PCS) in OEF/OIF
Because of the nature of injuries and the physical demands of OEF and OIF
deployments, there are data to suggest that a significant majority of returned warriors
report ongoing pain problems (Clark, 2004; Clark et al., 2009a; Gironda et al., 2006;
Kalra et al., 2008).
Post-traumatic headaches are a common complaint (Gironda et al., 2009; Clark et al.,
2007; Gironda et al., 2006; Lew et al., 2007; Ruff et al., 2008). Other commonly
reported pain problems are low back pain and joint pain (Clark et al., 2007; Clark et al.,
2009a). The high prevalence of chronic pain (pain that lasts longer than 3 months)
places OEF/OIF soldiers at long-term risk for impaired functional ability, significant
emotional distress, interpersonal conflict, substance misuse, and vocational limitations.
Substance misuse (including opioid medications) has also been found in OEF/OIF
returnees, although at lesser prevalence than pain (published rates range from 3 to 28
percent) (Clark et al., 2007; Kalra et al., 2008; Kang & Hyams, 2007; Shipherd et al.,
2007).
Pain symptoms are a common complaint among post-deployment populations (back pain
and headache). In one study of 1800 OEF/OIF veterans, 46.5 percent reported some
pain, with 59 percent of those exceeding the VA clinical threshold of > 4 on a 0-10 pain
scale (Gironda et al., 2006). Recent literature suggests that many returning service
members have multiple co-morbid symptoms of post-concussion syndrome, chronic
pain, and PTSD (Clark et al., 2007; Clark et al., 2009; Lew et al., 2009; Sayer et al.,
2008). In a sample of OEF/OIF veterans, pain was the single most common complaint
recorded, and 42 percent of the sample reported concurrent PCS, chronic pain, and
PTSD symptoms.
“The mechanism by which chronic pain and PTSD (and Post-Concussion Syndrome)
interact is still unclear. Researchers evaluating co-morbid pain and PTSD have presented
a variety of models to explain this phenomenon, including a Shared Vulnerability model,
a Mutual Maintenance model, and a Triple Vulnerability model (Asmundson et al., 2002;
Otis et al., 2003; Sharp & Harvey, 2001). These models propose mechanisms of
interaction via the dispositional tendency to be fearful or anxious, the belief that anxiety
states cause harmful consequences, and the cognitive distortions and behavioral
patterns of PTSD and chronic pain that maintain or exacerbate symptoms of the other
syndrome. These models have yet to be fully tested, and there are no available
outcomes data regarding the success of integrated treatment of co-morbid pain and
PTSD symptoms (Otis et al., 2003). However, such research is now being conducted."
(Otis, 2008) (Walker, 2010).
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Pain & PTSD Sensitivity Assessment
Given the high rates of co-morbidity of chronic pain and PTSD, clinicians should assess
for both disorders. Several well-validated self-report questionnaires are available to help
determine a diagnosis and the severity of symptoms. Self-report measures of pain,
including the 0 to 10 numerical pain rating scale, the McGill Pain Questionnaire, the West
Haven-Yale Multidimensional Pain Inventory, or the Pain Outcomes Questionnaire, were
developed and validated specifically for veterans.
Asmundson et al. (2002) recommended that clinicians who conduct diagnostic
assessments of patients presenting with PTSD symptoms also screen for the presence of
existing pain conditions, such as fibromyalgia or chronic musculoskeletal pain using a
self-reported questions or a structured clinical interview format
Interdisciplinary Approach to Management
Only a few studies have reported the results of treatments designed to address cooccurring chronic pain and PTSD. Given the current state of the literature, few
recommendations can be made regarding preferred treatment modalities for individuals
with co-morbid pain and PTSD. Several authors support the use of a multidisciplinary
treatment approach for patients with PTSD and chronic pain (Muse, 1986).
Given the broad range of emotional and physical symptoms characteristic of veterans
with co-occurring PTSD, chronic pain, and possible PCS, an integrated treatment
approach is required (Walker, 2010). Treatment goals need to be clarified (e.g., reduce
symptom severity, increase occupational or interpersonal functioning, reduce ongoing
use of healthcare services) (Clark, 2008).
The focus of the integrated approach should be on education and management of
symptoms and reducing pain and suffering, improving function, and enhancing quality of
life. The interventions and treatment modalities employed should follow the current
evidence-based recommendations for PCS, chronic pain, and PTSD (see VA/DoD
guidelines for mTBI/Concussion and the VHA National Pain Management Strategy
[NPMS], 2003); the specific practice guidelines for managing acute and chronic pain
associated with certain conditions, like low back pain (APS-AAPM, 2005; VHA/DoD,
2007); and the guideline for the use of opioids with chronic pain (VHA/DoD, 2010).
For the OEF/OIF population of returning soldiers, treatment should be individualized on
an inpatient or outpatient basis, depending upon needs within the group and individual
treatment formats. Treatment should be goal-oriented and time-limited, with increased
patient function and independence as major goals (Clark, 2009).
Non-Pharmacological Treatment
Initial treatment of PTSD focuses on providing psychoeducation about the disorder. This
may include specifically addressing how fears and avoidance of the trauma may serve to
maintain the symptoms and decrease the ability to function. This may also include
discussing how pain may serve as a trigger or reminder of the trauma and increase
arousal, fear, and avoidance and thereby increase disability and pain (Sharp, 2004).
Non-pharmacological ways to manage chronic pain may include Relaxation (e.g., relax
the locus of the pain problems by relaxing muscle tension). Increasing Activity and
Fitness (e.g., gradual return to more normal levels of activities and slowly increase
patient’s stamina for physical activities), Reducing Emotional Over-Reactivity (e.g.,
practice specific methods of emotional reaction to stressful triggers); and External
Focusing/Distracting (e.g., learn to shift and manipulate the focus of attention in a
positive way, which will minimize the experience of the pain).
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Complementary Alternative medicine - There are numerous interventions that are
being used to help manage chronic pain, including breathing, muscle relaxation, visual
imagery, music, cold/heat, stretching, massage therapy, stress management,
acupuncture, acupressure, hydrotherapy, and others.
Tan et al. (2007) examined various CAM therapies for chronic pain. For example, heart
rate variability (HRV) biofeedback (using a stress eraser portable biofeedback device
that easily can be used by veterans at home for the purpose of increasing HRV) has
been shown to be effective for reducing the symptoms of PTSD (e.g., Tan et al., 2009;
Zucker, 2009) and for persistent pain associated with fibromyalgia (Hassett et al.,
2007). Regulating heart rhythm coherence, using biofeedback devices that computes the
heart rhythm patterns, has been shown to improve symptoms, such as depression,
anxiety, panic disorder, and PTSD symptoms (McCraty, Atkinson, Tomasino, & Stuppy,
2001).
Pharmacotherapy
There are no studies evaluating the pharmacotherapy for acute dissociation or traumatic
pain associated with ASR.
The most common first-line treatments for pain have traditionally been analgesics,
which include opioids, NSAIDS (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs), anti-epileptic
drugs, and tricyclic antidepressants for neuropathic pain, and antidepressants that
target the inhibition of norepinephrine reuptake (SNRIs). With respect to trauma
exposure, some data suggest that pain patients with co-morbid PTSD use analgesic
medications at higher rates than their non-PTSD counterparts (Schwartz et al., 2006).
Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) are recommended as the first-line
pharmacological intervention for PTSD (see Intervention for PTSD– Module B). SSRIs
also have been examined for use in the treatment of chronic pain, but support for their
efficacy in this population is limited (see reviews by McCleane, 2008; Dworkin et al.,
2007). Sedative and anxiolytic medications are sometimes prescribed to alleviate
symptoms associated with both PTSD and chronic pain but are not recommended due to
the addictive properties of many anxiolytic agents (American Psychiatric Association,
2004; Sanders et al., 2005). The relationship between these pharmacological agents and
functioning among patients with co-morbid pain and PTSD has not been examined.
Opioid Therapy
While controversial, the use of opioid medications in the treatment of chronic, nonmalignant pain has increased significantly over the past three decades (Caudill-Slosberg
et al., 2004). The efficacy of opioids in alleviating acute pain is well established, but less
is known regarding their utility in treating chronic pain or their relationship with patient
functioning over extended periods of use (Ballantyne and Shin, 2008). Side effect
profiles associated with opioid use – tolerance, physical dependence, cognitive
impairment – often are cited as factors contributing to potential decreases in functioning
(Ballantyne and Shin, 2008; Eriksen et al., 2006). Clinicians need to recognize the
interrelationships of chronic pain, PTSD, and opioid use. The co-morbid psychiatric
disorders are known to increase risk of abuse and dependency among persons with
chronic pain (Edlund et al., 2007). Some data suggest that pain patients with co-morbid
PTSD use analgesic medications at higher rates than their non-PTSD counterparts (e.g.,
Schwartz et al., 2006). It may suggest that the experience of pain in the present may be
affected by previous emotional trauma and ongoing trauma-related stress disorders.
Some findings suggest the possibility that long-term use of opioids may lead to opioidinduced hyperalgesia (Angst & Clark, 2006).
Given inconsistent findings regarding the efficacy of opioids for long-term pain control,
potential for reductions in overall functioning, and the increased risk of abuse and
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dependency, providers should consider the benefits and potential harm of extended
opioid therapy for patients with chronic pain subsequent to traumatic injury (Clapp,
2010) (VA/DoD COT CPG, 2010).
Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT)
Cognitive behavioral therapy is recommended as first-line therapy for PTSD (see
Intervention for PTSD Module B). CBT for pain uses a similar approach and a variety of
techniques that are aimed at changing maladaptive thoughts and behaviors that serve to
maintain and exacerbate the experience of pain. CBT for chronic pain involves teaching
patients ways of safely reintroducing enjoyable activities into their lives.
Using components of cognitive processing therapy (CPT) for PTSD and cognitive
behavioral therapy (CBT) for chronic pain management, a 12-session integrated
treatment for veterans with co-morbid chronic pain and PTSD was developed (Otis,
2009). The key components of the CBT for chronic pain include cognitive restructuring
(i.e., teaching patients how to recognize and change maladaptive thoughts), relaxation
training (e.g., diaphragmatic breathing, progressive muscle relaxation), time-based
activity pacing (i.e., teaching patients how to become more active without overdoing it),
and graded homework assignments designed to decrease patients’ avoidance of activity
and reintroduce a healthy, more active lifestyle (Otis, 2007). The therapy includes
weekly readings and homework assignments, pre- and post-treatment evaluations using
measures of pain, PTSD, physical disability, and psychological distress.
The result of implementing the program in a pilot study demonstrates the importance of
establishing participant trust and regular therapy attendance and addressing participant
avoidance. Participants reported that they generally liked the format of treatment and
appreciated learning about the ways that chronic pain and PTSD share some common
symptoms and ways that the two disorders can interact with one another. The authors
concluded, based on this initial small pilot study, that the participants appeared to
benefit from receiving the integrated treatment for pain and PTSD (Otis, 2009).
C. Irritability, Severe Agitation, or Anger
BACKGROUND
In the most general sense, anger is a feeling or emotion that ranges from mild irritation
to intense fury and rage. Anger is often a central feature of response to trauma and can
be seen as a core component of the survival response in humans. Mismanaged or
uncontrolled anger and rage can lead to a continued sense of being out of control and
may cause conflicts in personal and professional relationships. Anger and irritability may
be associated with domestic violence and abuse, road rage, and workplace violence,
even if there is no intent to cause harm to others. It is important to distinguish between
anger and aggression. Aggression is behavior that is intended to cause harm to another
person or damage property. This behavior can include verbal abuse, threats, or violent
acts. Anger, on the other hand, is an emotion and does not necessarily lead to
aggression. Therefore, a person can become angry without acting aggressively.
Anger becomes a problem when it is felt too intensely, is felt too frequently, or is
expressed inappropriately. Anger management interventions include a range of
methods, including teaching individuals to recognize signs of becoming angry, self-calm,
avoid escalating conflicts, and respond to anger-eliciting situations in more positive
ways.
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RECOMMENDATIONS (BASED ON CONSENSUS OF THE WORKING GROUP CLINICAL EXPERTS)
1. Assess the nature of symptoms, severity, and dangerousness. Consider using
standardized Anger Scales, such as Spielberger’s State-Trait Anger Expression
Inventory, to quantify.
2. Explore for cause of symptoms and follow-up to monitor change.
3. Consider referral to specialty care for counseling or for marital or family counseling
as indicated. Offer referral for:
a. Anger Management therapy
b. Training in exercise and relaxation techniques
4. Promote participation in enjoyable activities - especially with family/ loved ones.
5. Promote sleep and relaxation.
6. Avoid stimulants and other substances (caffeine, alcohol).
7. Address pain (see pain management).
8. Avoid benzodiazepines.
9. Consider SSRIs/SNRIs
a. If not responding to SSRIs/SNRIs and other non-pharmacological
interventions, consider low-dose anti-adrenergics or low-dose atypical
antipsychotics (risperidone, quetiapine).
b. If not responding or worsening, refer to specialty care.
DISCUSSION
In anger management treatments, physical arousal, problem behaviors, and angerprovoking thoughts/beliefs are all addressed in different ways (Chemtob, 1997).
Cognitive-behavioral treatment, such as anxiety management, shows positive results
when used to address anger and applies many techniques to manage these three anger
components.
DISCUSSION
Prevalence
A study of sample OEF/OIF veterans found that over half of the veterans with PTSD
indicated that they had been aggressive in the past 4 months, such as threatening
physical violence, destroying property, and having a physical fight with someone.
Veterans with sub-threshold PTSD syndrome reported just about the same amount of
aggressive behavior as the veterans with PTSD. In fact, anger has been shown to be
associated with other co-morbid conditions to PTSD, such as head injury and alcohol
(substance) abuse. Each of these conditions has been associated with elevated anger
and hostility in veterans from previous conflicts. High levels of anger have been
observed in veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars. (Jakupcak, 2007)
In another survey of 2797 US soldiers returning from deployment, overall, 40 percent of
soldiers reported killing or being responsible for killing during their deployment. Even
after controlling for combat exposure, killing was a significant predictor of PTSD
symptoms, alcohol abuse, anger, and relationship problems Maquan et al., 2010).
A study assessing Vietnam combat veterans and comparing them to veterans who did
not serve in war found that the combat veterans were not significantly angrier than their
veteran peers who did not serve in Southeast Asia. Additionally, various parameters of
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war zone duty were not highly associated with anger scores. However, combat veterans
with PTSD scored significantly higher than veterans without PTSD on measures of anger,
arousal, and range of anger-eliciting situations, hostile attitudinal outlook, and tendency
to hold anger in. These results suggest that PTSD, rather than war zone duty, is
associated with various dimensions of angry affect (McFalls et al., 1999).
Anger can be a very difficult emotion to deal with and can lead to a number of legal and
interpersonal problems, such as domestic violence. In fact, individuals with PTSD are
particularly at risk for the perpetration of relationship violence.
Research has identified anger as prominent in and an influence on treatment outcomes
for military veterans with PTSD. To improve treatment effectiveness, clinicians need to
assess veterans' anger, aggression, and alcohol use, as well as their current fear of
anger and elucidate the relationship between these factors (Forbes, 2008).
Chemtob et al. (1997) described three components of post-traumatic anger that can
become maladaptive or interfere with one's ability to adapt to current situations that do
not involve extreme threat:
•
Arousal: Anger is marked by the increased activation of the cardiovascular,
glandular, and brain systems associated with emotion and survival. It is also
marked by increased muscle tension. Sometimes with individuals who have
PTSD, this increased internal activation can become reset as the normal level of
arousal and can intensify the actual emotional and physical experience of anger.
This can cause a person to feel frequently on edge, keyed up, or irritable and can
cause a person to be more easily provoked. It is common for traumatized
individuals to actually seek out situations that require them to stay alert and
ward off potential danger. Conversely, they may use alcohol and drugs to reduce
overall internal tension.
•
Behavior: Often, the most effective way of dealing with extreme threat is to act
aggressively, in a self-protective way. Additionally, many people who were
traumatized at a relatively young age do not learn different ways of handling
threat and tend to become caught in their ways of reacting when they feel
threatened. This is especially true of people who tend to be impulsive (who act
before they think). Again, as stated above, while these strategies for dealing with
threat can be adaptive in certain circumstances, individuals with PTSD can
become stuck in using only one strategy, when other approaches would be more
constructive. Behavioral aggression may take many forms, including aggression
toward others, passive-aggressive behavior (e.g., complaining, "backstabbing,"
deliberately being late or doing a poor job), or self-aggression (self-destructive
activities, self-blame, being chronically hard on oneself, self-injury).
•
Thoughts and Beliefs: The thoughts or beliefs that people have to help them
understand and make sense of their environment can over-exaggerate threat.
Often, the individual is not fully aware of these thoughts and beliefs, but they
cause the person to perceive more hostility, danger, or threat than others might
feel is necessary. For example, a combat veteran may become angry when others
around him (wife, children, and coworkers) don't "follow the rules." The strength
of his belief is actually related to how important it was for him to follow rules
during the war in order to prevent deaths. Often, traumatized persons are not
aware of the ways their beliefs are related to past trauma. For instance, by acting
inflexibly toward others because of their need to control their environment, they
can provoke others into becoming hostile, which creates a self-fulfilling prophecy.
Common thoughts that people with PTSD have include: "You can't trust anyone,"
"If I got out of control, it would be horrible/life-threatening/intolerable," "After all
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I've been through, I deserve to be treated better than this," and "Others are out
to get me, or won't protect me, in some way."
How can individuals with post-traumatic anger get help?
In anger management treatment, arousal, behavior, and thoughts/beliefs are all
addressed in different ways. Cognitive-behavioral treatment, a commonly utilized
therapy that shows positive results when used to address anger, applies many
techniques to manage these three anger components:
•
For increased arousal, the goal of treatment is to help the person learn skills that
will reduce overall arousal. Such skills include relaxation, self-hypnosis, and physical
exercises that discharge tension.
•
For behavior, the goal of treatment is to review a person's most frequent ways of
behaving under perceived threat or stress and help him or her to expand the possible
responses. More adaptive responses include taking a time-out; writing thoughts
down when angry; communicating in more verbal, assertive ways; and changing the
pattern "act first, think later" to "think first, act later."
•
For thoughts/beliefs, individuals are given assistance in logging, monitoring, and
becoming more aware of their own thoughts prior to becoming angry. They are
additionally given alternative, more positive replacement thoughts for their negative
ideas (e.g., "Even if I am out of control, I won't be threatened in this situation." or
"Others do not have to be perfect in order for me to survive/be comfortable.").
Individuals often role-play situations in therapy so they can practice recognizing their
anger-arousing thoughts and apply more positive thoughts.
There are many strategies for helping individuals with PTSD deal with the frequent
increase of anger they are likely to experience. Most individuals have a combination of
the three anger components listed above, and treatment aims to help with all aspects of
anger. One important goal of treatment is to improve a person's sense of flexibility and
control so that he or she does not feel re-traumatized by his or her own explosive or
excessive responses to anger triggers. Treatment is also meant to have a positive
impact on personal and work relationships.
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APPENDICES
Appendices
Appendix A. Guideline Development Process
199
Appendix B. Acronym List
206
Appendix C. PTSD Screening Tools
209
Appendix D. Participant List
213
Appendix E. Bibliography
222
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APPENDIX A:
Guideline Development Process
The update of the VA/DoD Clinical Practice Guideline for Management of Post-Traumatic Stress was
developed following the steps described in “Guideline for Guidelines,” an internal working document of
the VA/DoD Evidence Based Practice Working Group, that requires an ongoing review of guideline works
in progress.
The Offices of Quality Performance and Patient Care Services of the VA, and the Army Medical Command
of the DoD identified clinical leaders to champion the guideline development process. During a
preplanning conference call, the clinical leaders defined the scope of the guideline and identified a group of
clinical experts from the VA and DoD to form the Management of Post-Traumatic Stress Working Group
(WG). For this guideline these WG participants were drawn from the fields of primary care, psychiatry,
psychology, internal medicine, pharmacology, nursing, and social work.
The WG participated in 2 face-to-face meetings to reach consensus about the guideline algorithm and
evidence-based recommendations and to prepare a draft update document. The draft continued to be revised
by the Working Group through numerous conference calls and individual contributions to the document.
Recommendations for the management of post-traumatic stress were derived through a rigorous
methodological approach that included the following:
• Determining appropriate criteria such as effectiveness, efficacy, population benefit, or patient
satisfaction
•
Reviewing literature to determine the strength of the evidence in relation to these criteria
•
Formulating the recommendations and grading the level of evidence supporting the
recommendation
After orientation to the goals and scope of the guideline update, the WG developed a set of 13 researchable
questions within the focus areas of the guideline and identified associated key terms. For this guideline, two
sets of questions were developed. The First (A) addressed acute and early intervention aimed at/prevention
of PTSD in adults with recent exposure to trauma. The second set (B) focused on therapy of adult patients
with PTSD to achieve resolution of symptoms and functional outcome. This approach ensured that the
guideline development work outside of meetings focused on issues that practitioners considered important
and also produced criteria for the literature search and selection of included studies that formed the body of
evidence for this guideline update.
All questions specified (adapted from the Evidence-Based Medicine toolbox, Center for Evidence-Based
Medicine, [http://www.cebm.net ]):
• Population – Characteristics of the target patient population
• Intervention – Exposure, diagnostic, or prognosis
• Comparison – Intervention, exposure, or control used for comparison
• Outcome – Outcomes of interest
These specifications served as the preliminary criteria for selecting studies. See PICO Questions to Guide
Literature Search for a complete listing and categorization of the questions (end of this appendix).
Literature Search
An initial global literature search yielded 59 systematic reviews/meta-analyses addressing
pharmacotherapy, psychotherapy, combination, enhancement, complementary and other topics. One
hundred and seventy eight (178) RCTs were found on the same subjects. Twenty-four controlled trials (CT)
addressed combination, enhancement, and other areas. Refinement of the review process with input from
the WG members resulted in the studies being identified that met the baseline criteria for inclusion,
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addressed one or more of the researchable questions, and covered topic areas that had either not been
addressed in the previous version of this guideline or had been included but not fully developed . A more
detailed (full) search was conducted on each question, supplemented by hand searches and crossreferencing to search for relevant articles. The searches for these questions covered the period since the
publication of the first VA/DoD CPG on management of post-traumatic stress (between January 1, 2002
and August, 2009).
Selection of Evidence
The evidence selection process was designed to identify the best available evidence to address each key
question and ensure maximum coverage of studies at the top of the hierarchy of study types. Published,
peer-reviewed RCTs, as well as meta-analyses and systematic reviews that included randomized controlled
studies, were considered to constitute the strongest level of evidence in support of guideline
recommendations. This decision was based on the judgment that RCTs provide the clearest, most
scientifically sound basis for judging comparative efficacy. The WG also recognized the limitations of
RCTs, particularly considerations of generalizability with respect to patient selection and treatment quality.
When available, the search sought out critical appraisals already performed by others that described explicit
criteria for deciding what evidence was selected and how it was determined to be valid. The sources that
have already undergone rigorous critical appraisal include Cochrane Reviews, Best Evidence, Technology
Assessment, AHRQ systematic evidence reports, and other published Evidence-based Clinical Practice
Guidelines.
The following databases were searched: Medline/Pubmed, Embase, PsycINFO, OVID, PILOT, and
Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials. Limits were set for language (English), and type of
research (RCT, systematic reviews including EPC and HTA reviews and meta-analyses). For prognostic
and diagnostic questions (e.g., does test improve outcome?); cohort or other prospective non-RCT designs
were considered.
The following inclusion criteria were used to select the articles identified in the literature search for
possible inclusion:
• Published in United States, United Kingdom, Europe, Australia, Japan, New Zealand
• Full articles only published in English
• Study populations: age limited to adults 18 years of age or older; all races, ethnicities, and cultural
groups
• Relevant outcomes able to be abstracted from the data presented in the articles
• Sample sizes appropriate for the study question addressed in the paper. RCTs were included if they
were initiated with 30 or more participants
Preparation of Evidence Tables (Reports) and Evidence Rating
The results of the searches were organized in evidence reports, and copies of the original studies were
provided to the WG for further analysis. Each reference was appraised for scientific merit, clinical
relevance, and applicability to the populations served by the VA and DoD health care systems.
Recommendation and Quality Rating
Evidence-based practice involves integrating clinical expertise with the best available clinical evidence
derived from systematic research.
A group of research analysts read and coded each article that met inclusion criteria. The articles were
assessed for methodological rigor and clinical importance. Clinical experts from the VA and DoD WG
reviewed the results and evaluated the strength of the evidence, considering quality of the body of evidence
(made up of the individual studies) and the significance of the net benefit (potential benefit minus possible
harm) for each intervention.
The overall strength of each body of evidence that addresses a particular Key Question was assessed using
methods adapted from the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (Harris, 2001). To assign an overall quality
[QE] (see Table A-2) of the evidence (good, fair, or poor), the number, quality, and size of the studies;
consistency of results between studies; and directness of the evidence were considered. Consistent results
from a number of higher-quality studies [LE] (see Table A-1) across a broad range of populations; supports
with a high degree of certainty that the results of the studies are true and therefore the entire body of
evidence would be considered ‘‘good” quality. A ‘‘fair” quality was assigned to the body of evidence
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indicating that the results could be due to true effects or to biases present across some or all of the studies.
For a ‘‘poor” quality body of evidence, any conclusion is uncertain due to serious methodological
shortcomings, sparse data, or inconsistent results.
The Strength of Recommendation [SR] was then determined based on the Quality of the Evidence [QE],
and the clinical significance of the net benefit [NB] (see Table A-3) for each intervention, as demonstrated
by the body of evidence. Thus, the grade (i.e., A, B, C, D or I) assigned to guideline recommendations
reflect both variables; the Quality of the evidence and the potential clinical benefit that the intervention
may provide to patients (see Table A4).
Table A-1: Level of Evidence (LE)
At least one properly done RCT
Well-designed controlled trial without randomization
Well-designed cohort or case-control analytic study, preferably from more than one source
Multiple time series evidence with/without intervention, dramatic results of uncontrolled
II-3
experiment
Opinion of respected authorities, descriptive studies, case reports, and expert committees
III
I
II-1
II-2
Table A-2: Overall Quality [QE]
High grade evidence (I or II-1) directly linked to health outcome
Good
High grade evidence (I or II-1) linked to intermediate outcome;
or
Fair
Moderate grade evidence (II-2 or II-3) directly linked to health outcome
Level III evidence or no linkage of evidence to health outcome
Poor
Table A-3: Net Effect of the Intervention [NB]
Substantial
Moderate
Small
Zero or
Negative
More than a small relative impact on a frequent condition with a substantial burden of
suffering;
or
A large impact on an infrequent condition with a significant impact on the individual
patient level.
A small relative impact on a frequent condition with a substantial burden of suffering;
or
A moderate impact on an infrequent condition with a significant impact on the individual
patient level.
A negligible relative impact on a frequent condition with a substantial burden of suffering;
or
A small impact on an infrequent condition with a significant impact at the individual
patient level.
Negative impact on patients;
or
No relative impact on either a frequent condition with a substantial burden of suffering, or
an infrequent condition with a significant impact on the individual patient level.
Table A-4: Final Grade of Recommendation [SR]
The net benefit of the intervention
Quality of Evidence
Substantial
Moderate
Small
Zero or Negative
Good
A
B
C
D
Fair
B
B
C
D
Poor
I
I
I
I
Strength of Recommendation Rating [SR]
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B
C
D
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A strong recommendation that the clinicians provide the intervention to eligible patients.
Good evidence was found that the intervention improves important health outcomes and
concludes that benefits substantially outweigh harm.
A recommendation that clinicians provide (the service) to eligible patients.
At least fair evidence was found that the intervention improves health outcomes and concludes
that benefits outweigh harm.
No recommendation for or against the routine provision of the intervention is made.
At least fair evidence was found that the intervention can improve health outcomes, but
concludes that the balance of benefits and harms is too close to justify a general
recommendation.
Recommendation is made against routinely providing the intervention to asymptomatic patients.
At least fair evidence was found that the intervention is ineffective or that harms outweigh
benefits.
The conclusion is that the evidence is insufficient to recommend for or against routinely
providing the intervention.
Evidence that the intervention is effective is lacking, of poor quality, or conflicting, and the
balance of benefits and harms cannot be determined.
Algorithm Format
The clinical algorithm incorporates the information presented in the guideline in a format which maximally
facilitates clinical decision-making. The use of the algorithmic format was chosen because of evidence
showing that such a format improves data collection, facilitates diagnostic and therapeutic decisionmaking, and changes patterns of resource use.
The algorithmic format allows the provider to follow a linear approach to critical information needed at the
major decision points in the clinical process and includes:
– An ordered sequence of steps of care
– Recommended observations
– Decisions to be considered
– Actions to be taken
A clinical algorithm diagrams a guideline into a step-by-step decision tree. Standardized symbols are used
to display each step in the algorithm (Society for Medical Decision-Making Committee, 1992). Arrows
connect the numbered boxes indicating the order in which the steps should be followed.
Rounded rectangles represent a clinical state or condition.
Hexagons represent a decision point in the guideline, formulated as a
question that can be answered Yes or No. A horizontal arrow points
to the next step if the answer is YES. A vertical arrow continues to
the next step for a negative answer.
Rectangles represent an action in the process of care.
Ovals represent a link to another section within the guideline.
A letter within a box of an algorithm refers the reader to the corresponding annotation. The annotations
elaborate on the recommendations and statements that are found within each box of the algorithm.
Included in the annotations are brief discussions that provide the underlying rationale and specific evidence
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tables. Annotations indicate whether each recommendation is based on scientific data or expert opinion. A
complete bibliography is included in the guideline.
Lack of Evidence – Consensus of Experts
Where existing literature was ambiguous or conflicting, or where scientific data was lacking on an issue,
recommendations were based on the clinical experience of the Working Group.
This update of the Stroke Rehabilitation Guideline is the product of many months of diligent effort and
consensus building among knowledgeable individuals from the VA, DoD, and academia, as well as
guideline facilitators from the private sector. An experienced moderator facilitated the multidisciplinary
Working Group. The list of participants is included in Appendix D
REFERENCES
Agency for Health Care Policy and Research (AHCPR). Manual for conducting systematic review. August
1996. Prepared by Steven H. Woolf.
Harris RP, Helfand M, Woolf SH, Lohr KN, Mulrow CD, Teutsch SM, Atkins D; Methods Work Group,
Third US Preventive Services Task Force, Current methods of the U.S. Preventive Services Task
Force: a review of the process. Am J Prev Med 2001 Apr;20(3 Suppl):21-35. Available at;
http://www.ahrq.gov/clinic/ajpmsuppl/harris1.htm
Society for Medical Decision-Making Committee (SMDMC). Proposal for clinical algorithm standards,
SMDMC on Standardization of Clinical Algorithms. Med Decis Making 1992 Apr-Jun;
12(2):149-54.
United States Preventive Service Task Force (USPSTF). Guide to clinical preventive services. 2nd edition.
Washington, DC: US Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Disease Prevention
and Health Promotion, 1996.
Woolf SH. Practice guidelines, a new reality in medicine II; Methods of developing guidelines. Arch
Intern Med 1992 May; 152(5):946-52.
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Management of Post-Traumatic Stress
UPDATE 2010 PICO QUESTIONS
A. Acute Intervention / Prevention in adults with recent exposure to trauma or
diagnosed with ASD
1.
Is debriefing more e ffective t han no i ntervention o r a ny o ther i ntervention f or p revention o f P TS
disorder?
2.
Is pharmacotherapy more e ffective t han no i ntervention o r a ny o ther i ntervention for p revention o f
full PTS disorder?
a.
alpha–blockers
b.
beta–blockers
c.
Sympatolitic
d.
DCS and CBT
3.
Are any psychotherapy techniques more effective than no intervention or any other intervention for
prevention of full PTS disorder?
4.
Is psychoeducation more effective than no intervention or any other intervention for prevention of full
PTS disorder?
5.
Are an y Complimentary Alternative Medicine (CAM) approaches more ef fective t han no
intervention or any other intervention for prevention of full PTS disorder?
6.
Is early intervention more effective than later intervention for prevention of full PTS disorder?
7.
Is combination of pharmacotherapy and psychotherapy more effective than no intervention or any
other intervention for prevention of full PTS disorder?
8.
Is peer counseling more effective than counseling by an outside team for prevention of full PTS
disorder?
9.
Is outreach (screening, repeated screening) more effective than no intervention or any other
intervention for prevention of full PTS disorder?
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B. Treatment for PTSD
Which of the following treatment interventions for adult patients with PTSD lead to achieve Resolution
of symptoms and Functional outcome? (Consider effectiveness in special population (e.g., Gender, Combat
veterans, Elderly)
10. Psychotherapy Techniques:
Is prolonged exposure more effective interventions in the treatment of PTSD?
Is EMDR more effective than other interventions in the treatment of PTSD?
Is cognitive processing therapy more effective than other interventions in the treatment of
PTSD?
Is DBT, MBCT, ACT or mindfulness more effective than other interventions in the treatment
of PTSD?
Psychoeducation (Battlemind, stress control) more effective than other interventions in the
treatment of PTSD?
11. Pharmacotherapy Classes:
-MAOI and TCAs
-SSRIs
-SNRIs
-DNRI
-Novel antidepressant (trazodone, nefazodone)
-Conventional antipsychotics
-Atypical antipsychotics
-Anticonvulsants
-Anxiolytic (Benzodiazepine)
-Sedative hypnotics (for sleep)
-Antiadrenergics
12. Somatic:
-ECT
-rTMS
13. Complementary Alternative Mdedicine (CAM)
-Acupuncture
-Meditation
-Herbal, food suppl.,
-Yoga, Tai Chi
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APPENDIX B
Acronym List
ABCs
AHCPR
APA
ASD
ASR
AUDIT
BEP
BFT
BL
CAGE
CAPS
CAPS
CAPS-1
CAPS-2
CAPS-2
CAPS-D
CBC
CBT
CCTR
CDR
CGI
CGI-I
CGI-S
CGIC
CI
CISD
CNS
COSR
CPT
CPT-C
CT
CTT
CV
DARE
DAST
DBT
DCS
DoD
DSM-IV
DTS
dx
EBM
EBPTU
ED
EEG
EKG
Appendices
Airway, breathing, circulation
Agency for Healthcare Policy and Research
American Psychiatric Association
Acute stress disorder
Acute stress reaction
Alcohol Use Disorders Identification Test
Brief Eclectic Psychotherapy
Behavioral Family Therapy
baseline;
Alcohol abuse/dependence screening test mnemonic
Clinician-Administered PTSD Scale;
Clinician Administered PTSD Scale
Clinician-Administered PTSD Scale1-month version;
Clinician-Administered PTSD Scale1-week version;
Clinician-Administered PTSD Scale Part 2;
Clinician-Administered PTSD Scale hyperarousal subscale;
Complete blood count
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials
Commander
Clinical Global Impression;
Clinical Global Impression-Improvement;
Clinical Global Assessment of Severity;
Clinical Global Impression of Change;
confidence interval;
Critical Incident Stress Debriefing
Central nervous system
Combat and operational stress reactions
Cognitive Processing Therapy
CPT-Cognitive
Cognitive Therapy
Cognitive Trauma Therapy
Cardiovascular
Database of Abstracts of Reviews of Effectiveness
Drug Abuse/Dependence Screener
Dialectical Behavioral Therapy
D-cycloserine;
Department of Defense
Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (4th ed.)
Davidson Trauma Scale;
diagnosis
Evidence-based medicine
Evaluation and Brief PTSD Treatment Unit
Emergency Department;
Electroencephalography
Electrocardiogram
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EMDR
EMTs
ES
ESRT
ET
EtoH
FDA
GAF
GI
grp(s)
GT
GU
HIV
Interapy
IRT
IRT
ITT
LOC
LOF
MAOIs
MAST
MDD
MHP
MI
MISS
MMSE
MRI
MSE
MVA
N/R
NET
NIMH
NS
OMO
OTC
PCL
PCL-C
PCL-M
PCL-M
PCL-S
PCP
PE
PE (Interventions)
PIES
PSQI
PsychEd
pt(s)
PTSD
PTSD
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Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing
Emergency Medical Teams
effect size
Emotional Self-Regulation Therapy
Exposure Therapy
Ethanol
U. S. Food and Drug Administration
Global Assessment of Function
Gastrointestinal
group(s);
group therapy
Genitourinary
Human immunodeficiency virus
Internet Therapy
Imagery Rehearsal Therapy
Image Rehearsal Therapy
Intention to Treat
Level of consciousness
Level of function
Monoamine oxidase inhibitors
Michigan Alcohol Screening Test
Major Depressive Disorder
Mental health providers
Myocardial infarction
Mississippi Scale for Combat-Related PTST-civilian version;
Mini-Mental State Examination
Magnetic resonance imaging
Mental status examination
motor vehicle accident;
not reported;
Narrative Exposure Therapy (a form of Exposure Therapy)
National Institute of Mental Health
Nervous system
Ongoing military operations
Over-the-counter
Posttraumatic Stress Disorder Checklist;
PTSD Checklist – Civilian Version
Patient Checklist for PTSD-Military Version;
PTSD Checklist – Military Version
PTSD Checklist – Stressor Specific Version
Primary care provider
Physical examination
Prolonged Exposure
Proximity, Immediacy, Expectancy, Simplicity
Pittsburgh Sleep Quality Index
Psychological Education
patient(s);
posttraumatic stress disorder;
Post-traumatic Stress Disorder
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QE
RA
RCS
RCT
RLX
RTD
SC
SC
SIADH
SIPU
SIT
SM
SR
SSRI
SUD
SUNY
TAU
TCAs
TOP-8
TSH
Tx or RX
USPSTF
VA
VAMC
Vets
VHA
WL
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Quality of evidence
Repeated Assessment
Readjustment Counseling Services
Randomized controlled trial
Relaxation Training
Return-to-duty
Supportive Counseling
Supportive Counseling
Syndrome of inappropriate antidiuretic hormone
Specialized Inpatient PTSD Unit
Stress Inoculation Therapy
Service member
Strength of recommendation
Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors
Substance Use Disorder
State University of New York
Treatment as Usual
Tricyclic Antidepressants
Treatment Outcome PTSD rating scale;
Thyroid Stimulating Hormone
treatment
U.S. Preventive Service Task Force
Veterans Affairs
Veterans Affairs Medical Center
Veternas
Veterans Health Administration
wait list
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APPENDIX C
PTSD Screening Tools
Primary Care PTSD Screen (PC-PTSD)
The table below shows the Primary Care PTSD Screen (PC-PTSD) that has been designed for use in primary
care and other medical settings. The PC-PTSD is brief and problem-focused. The screen does not include a list
of potentially traumatic events. There are two reasons for this:
• Studies on trauma and health in both male and female patients suggest that the active mechanism
linking trauma and physical health is the diagnosis of PTSD. In other words, the relationship between
trauma and health appears to be mediated through a current PTSD diagnosis.
• A symptom-driven screen, rather than a trauma-focused screen, is attractive to primary care staff who
may not be able to address a patient’s entire trauma history during their visit with the patient. Such a
trauma inquiry might be especially problematic with a VA population where the average number of
traumatic events meeting criterion A for PTSD is over four.
A positive response to the screen does not necessarily indicate that a patient has Post-traumatic Stress Disorder.
However, a positive response does indicate that a patient may have PTSD or trauma-related problems and
further investigation of trauma symptoms by a mental-health professional may be warranted.
Primary Care PTSD Screen
In your life, have you ever had any experience that was so
frightening, horrible, or upsetting that, in the past month, you…
1.
Have had nightmares about it or thought about it when you did not want to?
YES
NO
2.
Tried hard not to think about it or went out of your way to avoid situations that
reminded you of it?
YES
NO
3.
Were constantly on guard, watchful, or easily startled?
YES
NO
4.
Felt numb or detached from others, activities, or your surroundings?
YES
NO
Current research suggests that the results of the PC-PTSD should be considered "positive" if
a patient answers "yes" to any two items.
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PTSD CheckList – Civilian Version (PCL-C)
Patient’s Name: __________________________________________
Instruction to patient: Below is a list of problems and complaints that veterans sometimes have in
response to stressful life experiences. Please read each one carefully, put an “X” in the box to
indicate how much you have been bothered by that problem in the last month.
No.
1.
2.
3.
4.
5.
6.
7.
8.
9.
10.
11.
12.
13.
14.
15.
16.
17.
Response:
Repeated, disturbing memories,
thoughts, or images of a stressful
experience from the past?
Repeated, disturbing dreams of a
stressful experience from the past?
Suddenly acting or feeling as if a
stressful experience were happening
again (as if you were reliving it)?
Feeling very upset when something
reminded you of a stressful experience
from the past?
Having physical reactions (e.g., heart
pounding, trouble breathing, or
sweating) when something reminded
you of a stressful experience from the
past?
Avoid thinking about or talking about a
stressful experience from the past or
avoid having feelings related to it?
Avoid activities or situations because
they remind you of a stressful
experience from the past?
Trouble remembering important parts
of a stressful experience from the past?
Loss of interest in things that you used
to enjoy?
Feeling distant or cut off from other
people?
Feeling emotionally numb or being
unable to have loving feelings for those
close to you?
Feeling as if your future will somehow
be cut short?
Trouble falling or staying asleep?
Not at
all (1)
A little
bit (2)
Moderately
(3)
Quite a
bit (4)
Extremely
(5)
Feeling irritable or having angry
outbursts?
Having difficulty concentrating?
Being “super alert” or watchful on
guard?
Feeling jumpy or easily startled?
Weathers, F.W., Huska, J.A., Keane, T.M. PCL-C for DSM-IV. Boston: National Center for PTSD – Behavioral
Science Division, 1991.
This is a Government document in the public domain.
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Management of Post-Traumatic Stress
PTSD CheckList – Military Version (PCL-M)
Patient’s Name: __________________________________________
Instruction to patient: Below is a list of problems and complaints that veterans sometimes have in
response to stressful military experiences. Please read each one carefully, put an “X” in the box to
indicate how much you have been bothered by that problem in the last month.
No.
Response:
13.
Repeated, disturbing memories, thoughts, or
images of a stressful military experience?
Repeated, disturbing dreams of a stressful
military experience?
Suddenly acting or feeling as if a stressful
military experience were happening again (as
if you were reliving it)?
Feeling very upset when something reminded
you of a stressful military experience?
Having physical reactions (e.g., heart
pounding, trouble breathing, or sweating)
when something reminded you of a stressful
military experience?
Avoid thinking about or talking about a
stressful military experience or avoid having
feelings related to it?
Avoid activities or situations because they
remind you of a stressful military experience?
Trouble remembering important parts of a
stressful military experience?
Loss of interest in things that you used to
enjoy?
Feeling distant or cut off from other people?
Feeling emotionally numb or being unable to
have loving feelings for those close to you?
Feeling as if your future will somehow be cut
short?
Trouble falling or staying asleep?
14.
Feeling irritable or having angry outbursts?
15.
Having difficulty concentrating?
16.
Being “super alert” or watchful on guard?
17.
Feeling jumpy or easily startled?
1.
2.
3.
4.
5.
6.
7.
8.
9.
10.
11.
12.
Not at
all (1)
A little
bit (2)
Moderately
(3)
Quite a
bit (4)
Extremely
(5)
Weathers, F.W., Huska, J.A., Keane, T.M. PCL-M for DSM-IV. Boston: National Center for PTSD – Behavioral Science Division, 1991.
This is a Government document in the public domain.
Appendices
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Management of Post-Traumatic Stress
PTSD CheckList – Stressor Specific Version (PCL-S)
The event you experienced was: _________________________________ on: ___________________
Instruction to patient: Below is a list of problems and complaints that veterans sometimes have in
response to stressful military experiences. Please read each one carefully, put an “X” in the box to
indicate how much you have been bothered by that problem in the last month.
No.
Response:
15.
Repeated, disturbing memories, thoughts,
or images of the stressful experience?
Repeated, disturbing dreams of the
stressful experience?
Suddenly acting or feeling as if the
stressful experience were happening again
(as if you were reliving it)?
Feeling very upset when something
reminded you of the stressful experience?
Having physical reactions (e.g., heart
pounding, trouble breathing, or sweating)
when something reminded you of the
stressful experience?
Avoid thinking about or talking about the
stressful experience or avoid having
feelings related to it?
Avoid activities or situations because they
remind you of the stressful experience?
Trouble remembering important parts of
the stressful experience?
Loss of interest in things that you used to
enjoy?
Feeling distant or cut off from other
people?
Feeling emotionally numb or being unable
to have loving feelings for those close to
you?
Feeling as if your future will somehow be
cut short?
Trouble falling or staying asleep?
Feeling irritable or having angry
outbursts?
Having difficulty concentrating?
16.
17.
Being “super alert” or watchful on guard?
Feeling jumpy or easily startled?
1.
2.
3.
4.
5.
6.
7.
8.
9.
10.
11.
12.
13.
14.
Not at
all (1)
A little
bit (2)
Moderately
(3)
Quite a
bit (4)
Extremely
(5)
Weathers, F.W., Huska, J.A., Keane, T.M. PCL-S for DSM-IV. Boston: National Center for PTSD – Behavioral Science Division, 1991.
This is a Government document in the public domain.
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Management of Post-Traumatic Stress
APPENDIX D
Participant List
Curtis Aberle, RN, NP
Chief, FMS McWethy
Brooke Army Medical Center
Fort Sam Houston, TX 78234
Phone: 210-295-4667
Email: [email protected]
Ron Acierno, Ph.D
PCT Director, Ralph H. Johnson VAMC
MUSC Crime Victims Center
109 Bee Street
Charleston, SC 29401
Phone: 843-792-2945
Email: [email protected]
Carla Cassidy, RN, MSN, CRNP
Director, Evidence Based Practice Program
Department of Veterans Affairs
1717 H Street
4th Floor, Room 406
Washington, DC 20006
Phone: 202- 266-4502
Email: [email protected]
Kathleen M. Chard, PhD
VA CPT Implementation Director
Director, PTSD and Anxiety Disorders Division
Cincinnati VA Medical Center
Address: 3200 Vine Street, Cincinnati, Ohio 45220
Phone: 859-572-6741
Email: [email protected]
Debra Dandridge, PharmD
Clinical Pharmacist
Brooke Army Medical Center
Department of Pharmacy
Fort Sam Houston, TX 78234
Phone: 210-916-2612
Email: [email protected]
Justin S. Campbell, PhD
LCDR, U.S. Navy Medical Service Corps
Senior Analyst, Deployment Health
Bureau of Medicine and Surgery
2300 E. St. NW
Washington, DC, 20372
Phone: 202-762-3013
Email: [email protected]
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Management of Post-Traumatic Stress
Daniella David, MD, M.Sc
Professor of Clinical Psychiatry, University of Miami
PTSD Program Medcial Director, Miami VA healthcare System
1201 NW 16th Street, 116A12
Miami, FL 33125
Phone: 305-575-7000, ext 3953
Email: [email protected]
Ernest Degenhardt, MSN, FNP, RN
Chief, Evidence-Based Practice
US Army Medical Command
2050 Worth Road, Suite 26
Fort Sam Houston TX 78234
Phone: 210-221-6527
Email: [email protected]
Martha D’Erasmo MPH
Independent Consultant
4550 North Park Ave, # 505
Chevy Chase, MD 20815
Phone: 301- 654-3152
Email: [email protected]
Kathryn J. Dolter, RN, PhD
Clinical Quality Program Specialist
Evidence-Based Clinical Practice Guidelines
Department of Veterans Affairs
1717 H. Street, N.W.
Washington, D.C., 20006
Phone: 202-461-1078
E-mail: [email protected]
Charles C Engel, MD, MPH
Colonel, MC, US Army
Dir, DoD Deployment Health Clinical Center
Assoc Chair (Research), Department of Psychiatry
Uniformed Services University School of Medicine
Phone: 202-782-8064
Email: [email protected]
Rosalie Fishman, RN, MSN, CPHQ
President
Healthcare Quality Informatics, Inc.
2275 Shady Grove Rd, Suite 500
Rockville, MD 20850
Phone: 301- 296-4542
Email [email protected]
Joel T. Foster, PhD,
Capt, US Air Force, BSC
Licensed Psychologist
ADAPT Program Element Chief
Travis AFB/60 MDOS/SGOW
Phone: 707-423-2317
Email: [email protected]
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Management of Post-Traumatic Stress
Matthew J. Friedman, MD, Ph.D
Executive Director
National Center for PTSD
White River Junction VA Medical Center
215 North Main Street
White River Junction, VT 05009
Phone: 802-296-5132
Email: [email protected] or
[email protected]
Stella M Hayes, MD
CDR, US Navy
Family Physician / Deputy Group Surgeon
2nd Marine Logistic Group
ATTN: Group Surgeon's Office
308 G Street
Camp Lejeune, NC 28547
Phone (910)450-6675
Email: [email protected]
MAJ Kenneth Hyde, PA-C
MAJ, US Army
Madigan Army Medical Center
ATTN: MCHJ-EM
Bldg 9040, Rm 1-54-02
Tacoma, WA 98431
Phone: 253-968-0599
Email: [email protected]
Charles Hoge, MD
Director, Division of Psychiatry and Neuroscience
Walter Reed Army Institute of Research
503 Robert Grant Ave
Washington, DC 20307-5001
Phone: 301-319-9342
Email: [email protected]
Matthew D. Jeffreys, MD
Associate Professor of Psychiatry, UTHSCSA
PCT Medical Director
South Texas Health care System
5788 Eckhert Rd
San Antonio, TX 78240
Phone: 210-699-2145
Email: [email protected]
Terence M. Keane, Ph.D
Associate Chief of staff, Research & development
VA Boston Healthcare System
150 South Huntington Avenue
Boston, MA 02130
Phone: 857-364-4551
Email: [email protected]
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Management of Post-Traumatic Stress
Robert L. Koffman, MD, MPH
Captain, MC, US Navy
Deputy Director for Clinical Operations
National Intrepid Center of Excellence
for Psychological Health and Traumatic Brain Injury
8901 Wisconsin Blvd
Bethesda, MD 20889-5600
Phone: 301-319-3606
Email: [email protected]
Harold Kudler, MD
Coordinator, VISN 6 Mental Health Service Line
Durham VA Medical Center
508 Fulton St.
Durham , NC 27705
Phone: 919-451-3369
Email: [email protected]
James R. Liffrig, MD, MPH
COL, MC, US Army Chief, Department of Family Medicine
Womack Army Medical Center
Fort. Bragg NC 28310
Phone: 910-907-6823
Email: [email protected]
Patrick J. Lowry, MD
COL, MC, US Army
Psychiatrist
Munson Army Health Center
550 Pope Ave
Ft Leavenworth, KS 66027
Phone: 913-758-3751
Email: [email protected]
Sandra McNaughton, RN, NP
LTC, AN, US Army
Walter Reed Army Medical Center
6900 Georgia Ave
Washington DC 20307
Phone: 202-782-7230
Email: [email protected]
David T. Orman, MD
Chief, PTSD-TBI/BH
Integration (PTBI)
US Army Medical Command
2050 Worth Road
Fort Sam Houston, TX 78234
Phone: 210-221-6792
Email: [email protected]
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Management of Post-Traumatic Stress
Alan L. Peterson, Ph.D
Professor
University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio
Department of Psychiatry
7703 Floyd Curl Dr.
San Antonio, TX 78229-3900
Phone: 210-508-5428
Email: [email protected]
Sheila M. Rauch, Ph.D
Director, SeRV-MH
VA Ann Arbor healthcare System
Assistant Professor of Psychology in Psychiatry
University of Michigan Medical School
2215 Fuller Rd (116c)
Ann Arbor, MI 48105
Phone: 734-845-3545
Email: [email protected] or
[email protected]
Miguel E. Roberts, Ph.D
Chief, Psychological Health Clinical Guidelines
Defense Centers of Excellence for Psychological Health
and Traumatic Brain Injury
Psychological Health Clinical Standards of Care
1335 East West Hwy, 9th Floor
Silver Spring, MD 20910
Phone: 301-295-3541
Email: [email protected]
Josef I. Ruzek, Ph.D
Director/Chief, Dissemination and Training Division,
National Center for PTSD
VA Palo Alto Health Care System
National Center for PTSD
785 Willow Road
Menlo Park CA 94025
Phone: 650-493-5000 ext. 22977
Email: [email protected]
Todd P. Semla, MS, Pharm.D.
Clinical Pharmacy Specialist
Department of Veterans Affairs
National Pharmacy Benefits Management Services (119D)
1st Ave-1 Blk N of Cermak Rd (Building 37, Rm 139)
Hines, Il 60141
Phone:708-786-7976
Email: [email protected]
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Management of Post-Traumatic Stress
Murray B. Stein, MD, MPH
Professor of Psychiatry and family Preventive Medicine, UCSD
Staff Psychiatrist VA San Diego Healthcare System
UCSD and VASDHS
9500 Gilman Dr.(Is this VA address?)
La Jolla, CA 92093-0855
Phone: 858-534-6451
Email: [email protected]
Steven M. Southwick, MD
Professor Psychiatry, Yale University
Deputy Director Clinical Neuroscience Division
National Center for PTSD
VA Connecticut Healthcare System
Yale University Medical School
950 Campbell Ave
West Haven, CT 05516
Phone: 203-932-5711 ext. 2464
Email:[email protected]
Mark B. Stephens, MD MS FAAFP
CAPT, MC, US Navy
Associate Professor and Chair
Department of Family Medicine
Uniformed Services University
4301 Jones Bridge Rd.
Bethesda, MD 20814-4799
Phone: 301-295-3632
Email:[email protected]
Frances Stewart, MD
CAPT, MC, US Navy
Department of Psychiatry
National Naval Medical Center
8901 Rockville Pike
Bethesda, MD 20889
Phone: 202-685-6443
Email: [email protected]
Oded Susskind, MPH
Medical Education Consultant
PO Box 112
Brookline MA 02446
Phone: 617- 232-3558
Email: [email protected]
Christopher Warner, MD, FAAFP
MAJ(P), MC, US Army
Command and General Staff College
100 Stimson Drive
Fort Leavenworth, KS 66027
Phone; 913-424-9472
Email: [email protected]
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Management of Post-Traumatic Stress
Marjory K. Waterman, MN, RN
Nurse Consultant/ CPG Coordinator
U.S. Army Medical Command
Evidence Based Practice Office
ATTN: MCHO-CL-Q
2050 Worth Road, Suite 26
Fort Sam Houston, TX 78234
Phone: 210-221-7281
Email: [email protected]
Robert J. Wilson, PsyD, ABPP
Col US Air Force
Director, Psychological Health Clinical Standards of Care
Defense Centers of Excellence for Psychological Health
and Traumatic Brain
Injury
Email: [email protected]
Randon S. Welton, MD
Lt Col, USAF, MC
Chief, Modernization Division
Office of the Command Surgeon
AFMC/SGR
Phone:-937-656-3642
Email: [email protected]
CONTRIBUTORS AND REVIEWERS:
Nancy C. Bernardy, Ph.D.
Associate Director for Clinical Networking
PTSD Mentoring Program Manager
VA National Center for PTSD 116D
215 N. Main St.
White River Junction, VT 05009
(802) 296-5132 fax (802) 296-5135
[email protected]
Edward A Brusher, LCSW, BCD
LTC, MS US Army
Chief, Deputy Director, Behavioral Health Division
Office of the Surgeon General
BHD, HP&S Directorate, OTSG
Falls Church, VA 22041-3258
Phone: 703-681-4188
Email: [email protected]
Bruce Capehart, MD, MBA
Psychiatry, Attending
Durham VAMC
OEF/OIF Program (122B)
508 Fulton Street
Durham, NC 27705
Phone: (919) 296-0411, ext 5112
Email: [email protected]
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Management of Post-Traumatic Stress
Michael E. Clark, PhD
Clinical Director, Chronic Pain rehabilitation Program
Thomas A. Haley veterans Hospital
13000 Bruce B. Blvd
Tampa, FL 33612
Phone:813-972-2000 ext. 7484
Email: [email protected]
Kent, Drescher, Kent
Health Science Specialist
Dept of Veterans Affairs
Nat Ctr PTSD
Palo Alto VAMC - NatCtrPTSD
795 Willow Rd Bld 352/111
Menlo Park, CA 94025
Phone: 650.493.5000 x22071
Email: [email protected]
Barbara A. Hermann, PhD
Associate Director for Research and Education
VA National Center for PTSD (116D)
215 North Main St.
White River Junction, VT 05009
802-296-5132 x6082 fax (802) 296-5135
[email protected]
Carolyn J. Greene, PhD
Clinical Psychologist
National Center for PTSD, Dissemination and Training Division
VA Palo Alto HCS
795 Willow Road (PTSD-334)
San Francisco, CA 94103
Phone: 650-493-5000 ext 22107
Email: [email protected]
Julia Hoffman, Psy.D
Clinical Psychologist
National Center for Telehealth & Technology
795 Willow Road, 334-PTSD
Menlo Park, CA 94025
Phone: 650-493-5000 x20007
Email: [email protected]
Eric Kuhn, PhD
Co-Director for Education, PTSD
VA Sierra Pacific (VISN 21) Mental Illness Research,
Education, & Clinical Center (MIRECC)
VA National Center for PTSD, Dissemination and Training Division
795 Willow Road Menlo Park, CA 94025
Phone: (650) 493-5000 x23160
Email: [email protected]
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Walter E. Penk, PhD, ABPP
Consultant,
Central Texas VA Healthcare System
1936 Oak Glen,
New Braunfels, Texas, 78132
Phone: 830-620-0222
Email: [email protected]
James Spira, PhD, MPH
Director NCPTSD-Pacific Islands Division
Department of Veterans Affair
3375 Koapaka St. I-560
Honolulu, Hawaii 96819
Phone: 808-954-6390
Email: [email protected]
Paula P. Schnurr, Ph.D.
Deputy Executive Director
National Center for PTSD (116D)
VA Medical and Regional Office Center
White River Junction, VT 05009
Phone: (802) 296-5132 FAX (802) 296-5135
Email: [email protected]
or [email protected]
Jennifer Vasterling, PhD
Chief, Psychology Service
VA Medical Center – Boston
150 S Huntington Ave
Jamaica Plain, MA 02130
Phone: (857) 364-4038
Email: [email protected]
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APPENDIX E
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Biddle D, Elliott P, Creamer M, Forbes D, Devilly GJ. Self-reported problems: a comparison between
PTSD-diagnosed veterans, their spouses, and clinicians. Behav Res Ther 2002;40:853-65.
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